Science Says: Embrace Your Impulsivity for Success at Work


We hear a lot today about controlling and treating impulsivity not just in students but also in adults in the workforce.

But while there are obvious benefits to being able to control your behavior in a professional setting, being impulsive can also contribute to your success — if you do it at the right time and in the right way.

Impulsivity can be an asset for many workers and in many work situations. If you tend to be impulsive, embrace your willingness to jump right into things, and utilize your strengths.

Turn Off Your Inner Critic and Trust Your Impulses

“Let’s face it: impulsivity often gets a bad rap and that is not fair because it can be a motivating force behind artistic genius,” writes Raychelle Cassada Lohmann Ph.D., LPCS, at Psychology Today. “For example, some really great art, books, and music have come out of an impulsive action. Impulsivity can boost and even enhance creative moments.”

Impulsive people don’t listen to, or don’t have, that voice so many of us have in our heads telling us to stop, think, or wait. They put the paint on the canvas, start jamming in impromptu band sessions, or write down all their thoughts without hesitation. And out of those thoughts and actions comes creative genius.

Try not to self-edit while you’re brainstorming. Instead of thinking, “it’ll never work,” write down that new idea. Make that suggestion that pops into your head during a meeting. Keep trying new things until you find the one that works.

Be Like a Kindergartner

At Time, blogger and author Eric Barker explains that while being conscientious can contribute to success and happiness, not being conscientious can provide benefits as well.

Consider the Spaghetti Problem. Barker explains:

Peter Skillman created a design exercise called “The Spaghetti Problem.”

Groups get 20 pieces of spaghetti, tape, some string and a marshmallow.

The group that creates the tallest freestanding structure that will support the marshmallow’s weight within 18 minutes, wins.

He tested groups of engineers, managers, MBA students, etc.

Did tons of planning help? Nope.

Really thinking things through provide an advantage? Nope.

You know who outperformed everyone?

Who crushed the engineers and decimated the MBA students?


The kindergartners outperformed all the others because they behaved in an impulsive manner: they jumped right in and failed, tried something different and failed, learning and improving their design the whole time. Engineers and MBA students were too busy planning and holding back until they believed their design would work before being willing to try it.

When faced with a new challenge, embrace impulsivity. Instead of worrying about whether it will work, jump in without hesitation and find out. If it doesn’t work, adjust accordingly. Keep going until you find the answer.

Strike a Balance

While impulsivity can get you going places, as with all things, there are positive and negative aspects to it. For example, when you get a new idea in a meeting, do share it — but don’t interrupt others. If it’s hard to wait to speak, write down your idea and wait your turn.

Yoga and meditation have been found to be helpful for children and adults with ADHD to strike a balance between being constantly “on the go” or not getting things done due to distractibility or fear of impulsivity.

Impulsive people need time to relax and get their minds into a calm state. Adding a yoga class to your weekly schedule may help you strike an appropriate balance in your life. Jump in and take chances but take time for relaxation as part of your regular schedule.

Tell Us What You Think

Have impulsivity boosted your career? We want to hear from you. Tell us your story in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.