Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom — Viktor E. Frankl
You have promised yourself not to take that extra chocolate chip cookie, then, 10 minutes later you are staring with awe at its empty case …
You have promised yourself to go jogging in the evening and suddenly the laziness monster creeps in and dissuades you from taking action.
It turns out that if we could get rid of these tempting impulses, we would be far ahead in life.
The following technique is discovered by neuroscientists and if you cultivate it through practice, you will be virtually free of the commands of your temptations and impulses.
You will no longer be subject to your impulses. Rather, you will become the master.
What is Veto Power and How to Use it?
I had desires, I killed them, now I’m the master.
To inhibit distractions you need to be aware of your thoughts and internal mental processes. This will give you some room to catch the wrong impulses before they take hold.
This is what happens in your brain before you take an action:
Imagine a simple act, as the desire to move your finger, or stretching your hands to grab your phone.
What science has recently revealed is that half a second before a voluntary movement, the brain sends a signal called an action potential, which relates to the movement about to occur.
This action potential happens long before (half a second) you are consciously aware of the desire to move. Your brain decides “I will grab the phone” about 0.3 seconds before you are aware of it.
Once you are aware of this desire to move — be it grabbing your phone or moving your finger — your brain has made the decision for you 0.3 seconds ago.
After this point, there is 0.2 second during which you are aware of being about to move, but haven’t yet. This 0.2-second window is a decent amount of time, long enough for the mind to notice the urge and intervene.
Put differently, you don’t have much power over what you will desire to do, but you have this veto power to intervene and reject it.
It would be far easier for you, to exercise this veto power during this 0.2-second window, otherwise, that impulse gets momentum and much more difficult to suppress.
In the words of Dr. Jeffrey M. Schawrtz:
It seems that you may not have much free will, but you do have “free won’t”
This is the essence of what we have talked about so far:
How to Actually Use the Veto Power Effectively
At the Day of Judgement we shall not be asked what we have read but what we have done.”
― Thomas A Kempis
Many things on paper sound very lucrative. This technique is quite powerful in itself. But there are a couple of caveats along the way which might prevent you from gaining the most of it.
Firstly, the use of veto power requires awareness and mindfulness.
You can use this veto power to suppress any destructive impulse — from the desire to devour that delicious chocolate to the desire of venting off anger.
But, in the hit of the moment, what happens is that you probably won’t even remember that you have this mighty veto power in your arsenal.
Thus, ideally, when the impulse arrives we want the thought of having this veto power to come along with it, and we want it as soon as possible; otherwise, we will miss that golden 0.2-second window to use it.
The most simple way to gain this awareness and establish this association (between impulses and veto power) is to constantly expose yourself to this idea.
What I would recommend you to try, is to write it somewhere that keeps reminding you about it.
I usually put such dramatic insights into the background of my phone. Or I write it on a sticky note and post it where I am constantly exposed to it.
I use my monitor a lot, so it looks like this for me:
Secondly, you have to make the use of this technique almost automatic.
The simple way would be to exercise it regularly. Of course, you know it already. But here’s the catch, it doesn’t have to feel boring or feel like a burden. You can make this process far easier by remembering the following simple fact (which is rooted also in neuroscience):
- Remember that each time you exercise this veto power, the next time it would be slightly easier for you to do it.
If you follow these simple steps, i.e. reminding yourself and keep using this veto power, you will reach a point where it gets almost automatic. It becomes a part of your personality.
Consequently, you would be a more disciplined person.
So, remember to suppress the impulses as soon as they arise, before they suppress your progress.