Pause and ask three questions

Talking about intrusive thoughts, distraction, and procrastination with my therapist, I worked out a structure to pause and redirect my attention.

Stop what I’m doing/thinking.

Take a slow breath.

Ask myself three questions, in order:

  1. What am I feeling?
  2. What do I need?
  3. What will satisfy that need?

It’s for doom scrolling, dopamine-seeking behavior, and intrusive thoughts. It’s for any time when it’s possible to recognize what I’m doing in the moment isn’t something that’s helping me align my actions with my identity.

It’s easy to forget that what I’m doing in the moment has meaning later on. Those twenty minutes scrolling TikTok or imagining a worst case scenario don’t come back later.

These questions interrupt the cycle of procrastination/distraction > guilt > shame/sadness > procrastination/distraction, and so on.

It’s like one of Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies:

Honor thy error as a hidden intention.

Stop > find the reason for my actions > address the reason.

It’s a practice, not a one-and-done realization. I can still find myself ignoring my own advice, or not having the willpower energy to follow through.

But it’s helping me a little. Maybe it can help somebody else, too.