How Acting on a Whim Helped Me Have a Healthier Week
“Do not underestimate the power of a whim. A whim is not a left-field impulse that comes out of nowhere to steer you into danger. A whim is only possible because it’s been building in the back of your mind for a long time. You’ve been mulling it over casually but never acted because your resistance was in the way. Over time, it doesn’t feel so risky anymore, so you can ‘on a whim’ do it.
“Whims are a window into your desire and they change your life in small but significant ways. When you feel one brewing, it’s because it has been brewing for a while.”
– Mel Robbins, “Stop Saying You’re Fine: Discover a More Powerful You”
When I scour personal growth literature I often find myself concluding that much of the advice may be fine for a “normal” person, who can plan to be well, alert, rested and pain-free. But sometimes I mine a gem or two that is game-changing. Mel Robbins’ book offered me two that really transformed my week.
The first is this insight into whims – that they are incubated in the core of our true selves – therefore worth acting on. My defenses were up against this one. How many times have I planned on a whim, only to feel foolish and have to disappoint someone when, days or weeks later, my body and mind are not up to following through?
The key here is not planning on a whim, but doing on a whim. If it is a whim we can start and complete right now – whether we feel up to it or can at least push through momentarily – why not do it? If it even has a slight chance of moving us in the direction of our deepest desires, it may be worth the risk.
What it takes is coming up with what she calls “activation energy” – in short, the force it takes to “get the ball rolling” compared to the energy it takes once that ball has momentum. For some of us, just standing up or dialing a phone may seem a Herculean effort.
A second insight she offered empowered me to follow the advice on whims. It’s what Robbins calls “The Five-Second Rule.” When an impulse strikes that would jog us out of our routine (what she says keeps us stuck), it only takes five seconds for our brains to talk us out of it. To outsmart our brains, we must act within five seconds. Five, four, three, two, one. So long, whim.
This week I reached out to three important people I’d been avoiding “on a whim.” Though I usually need to spend my evenings at home after a full day’s work, I accepted a dinner invitation from a friend. The next night I opted out of a family gathering – finding even disengaging can be done on a whim. The next evening I arrived home with some energy and was able to clean and order my home, which always makes me feel better. At work I picked up the phone to make key calls rather than dodging them with prevarications, excuses and busy work. These were the impact calls critical to success – but also the hardest to make. I didn’t commit myself to a full day, or even hour of calls – just the next one, and the biggest one. I didn’t rehearse my
script; I just dialed. And I didn’t self-flagellate when after the call I found something else worthwhile to do. All in all, I finished one of the most satisfying personal and professional weeks I’ve had in a very long time. I got unstuck and on track at home and at work.
I hope it was a game-changing week I can duplicate. With chronic illness, you never know. The things I did on whim are a fait accompli – they added value regardless of if I follow up or follow through. So I plan to keep acting on some of my whims – not someday, but in five, four, three, two, one!
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Thinkstock photo via Wavebreakmedia Ltd.