The 24 Hour Rule
“Act in Haste, Repent in Leisure” . . .
Written by American author David Foster Wallace, this simple statement is a mantra I use to remind myself of the danger I court when I respond too quickly to events presented by the daily ups and downs of life. Faced with a pressing issue, many of us choose to react, rather than respond to what is happening around us. Sometimes, quick reactions work in our favor (e.g. when the building is burning down and we are running for the exit), but for the most part, we dig ourselves a hole when we allow a negative event or unsatisfactory interaction with another person to “trigger” us into immediate speech or action. And then (to make matters worse), once we are in that self-dug hole, we work hard to convince ourselves and others that we are “right” and that the other person involved is “wrong”. The harder we try to “win” and be “right”, the easier it is to lose sight of our better selves, our values and intentions and our bigger picture goals. I want to talk about what I call “the 24-Hour Rule.” Using it can free us up from this reactionary cycle, and improve our relationships with other people who are important in our lives.
How not to win the prize for “does not play well with others?
Along with working to make it safe for people to tell me anything and everything, suspending judgment, and assuming the best of others’ intentions, I use the 24-Hour Rule to help me manage myself with what I say and do. It’s one of my Emotional Intelligence tools. I use the 24-Hour Rule if I am feeling upset, angry, hurt, confused or stuck. When I notice that I am in danger of “acting in haste”, I wait until I am calm before I try to resolve the problem or conflict which I am facing. 24 hours is usually long enough for me to clarify my thinking, but more complex problems and conflicts may take longer.
The foundation for using the 24-Hour Rule is built on self-awareness.
Here are six steps you can take today to work toward actualizing this common-sense concept. Work with a trusted coach or friend to. . .
- Develop awareness and language for noticing what you are thinking and feeling as you go about your life
- Identify your emotional “triggers” (behaviors that “trigger” an automatic response from you)
- Figure out what your default behaviors are – what you might do if you’re negatively “triggered” by an interaction or event in your everyday life
- Clarify whether your default behaviors serve you well or poorly
- Identify other behaviors you could choose to act on that might serve you better in the moment
- Practice the skills associated with the behaviors you believe would serve you
better, and ask for feedback on your progress.