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Gone in a Snap: You Only Have 3 Seconds

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Daniel and I carpool to work quite frequently and have many diverse conversations. We also see many things.

This morning, as we drove through the Lancaster countryside backroads, we both saw a stunning golden sunrise set against an old country barn that had several trees placed in just the right position to offset the barn and silo in the rule of threes.

It was the perfect shot. Except I just kept driving. We see this sunrise quite frequently, though this morning, it was more stunning than most other mornings.

The thing is, we never stopped to take that picture. Three seconds of looking out my window as we cruise on by. Then it’s gone. I kept driving out of habit.

However, this evening, while quickly catching up on my social media, I see that picture. My friend, who works in my department, had stopped to take the picture. And she captured everything about it that made it so stunning.

Breaking Bad (Habits)

For better or worse, actions can take us down a path. For a certain online television show, the main character begins as a chemistry teacher and, through a series of bad actions, destroys his life. In almost every one of those actions, there was a moment when he could have gone a different direction.

But as the physics law goes, a body in motion stays in motion. We gather momentum. We keep doing what we were doing.

And that’s why right around this time of year, we have either already stopped or are just beginning to fail with our New Year’s Resolutions.

That momentum begins to die off and we fall back into the deeply worn habits that we had been in previously.

I have noticed that making and breaking bad habits has been a matter of seconds, not weeks or months.

Change Your Habits in 3 Seconds

On that drive in this morning, I briefly thought about pulling over and taking that picture. But something in me kept me at the “thinking about it” phase for just long enough to miss the pulloff and not take action.

The same thing happened about working out this year for me. I fully intended to join my wife in doing situps each evening.

But as I come up the stairs to my study and see the spot where I would do them, I think to myself, “Yup, I’m going to get to that tonight. Yes. Right after I go over to my desk and sit my coffee down, and, oh, look at this book I need to finish.”

As you can imagine, this series of actions happens every evening. And one month has now passed since the year began and I have done exactly zero situps.

It just takes a few seconds to convince ourselves to do something (or not to do something).

Sadly, I also don’t help people as often as I would like.

I’m sure you have seen someone pulled off to the side of the road with car trouble, or someone asking for money as you drive or walk by. And have you, like me, thought that you should pull over and help that person.

And have you, like me, taken just long enough to convince yourself to help only to realize, “Uh oh, I passed them. Too late. I really did want to help, though.”

Yeah. I am a pro at that.

Be Impulsive

I’m not an impulsive person by nature. But I’m learning to be. I’m realizing most of the time, my gut reaction is the one I should have done. But after that snap decision, I then talk myself out of it in just three seconds.

By not giving myself that time, by becoming more impulsive in these types of situations, I am slowly changing my habits and allowing myself to help someone without thinking.

Because, in reality, I have thought about it. Our brains are incredibly fast and tell us things quickly. Like take your hand off the hot stove.

We don’t think. We do. But we just need to expand that instinctive gut reaction and act on in more.

If I had said in those first three seconds, “Hey, Scott, that’s a great picture. Pull over.” I might have more likely done it. If I decided more quickly that someone needed help, I would have pulled over to help them, or noticed they needed to talk.

Yes, being impulsive can also mean, just being with someone instead of quickly running off. Now, when someone asks me if I’ll pray for them, I’m starting to simply stop and do so right then, with them.

Those first three seconds are allowing me to make more positive decisions for myself.

And at the same time, admiring people like Alyssa, who have already gotten to that point and just take the shot when they see a stunning sunrise.

Don’t miss the shot like I did.

Hi. I'm Scott Sullivan, a slave of Christ, author, AI programmer, and animator. I spend my time split between the countryside of Lancaster, Pa, and Northern Italy, near Cinque Terre and La Spezia.

In addition to improving lives through data analytics with my BS in Computer Science, I also published, Searching For Me, my first memoir, about my adoption, search for my biological family, and how it affected my faith.