When I go through a drive through for my morning coffee or noon meal I want in quickly. I have come to expect “fast food” to appear magically. Poof! and it’s there.

If the screen does not change immediately to my desired website when I click on the address, I wonder why it is taking so long.

Advancements in technology cause seconds to seem like hours. We don’t have time to wait- even for a few seconds. Consequently our learned impatience can cause us to have knee jerk reactions to every situation and to speak without thinking.

Have you ever acted on something and then had second thoughts? Have you verbalized your thoughts before thinking them through? If you had taken a little more time before you responded would the results have been better? There are times when instantaneous action is needed. But most of the time an immediate response is not required.

Dr. Les Parrott is a psychologist, college professor, public speaker, and author of several books. He says first impulses are unconscious habits that are imbedded in our brain and they emerge automatically. They just pop up and we don’t give them a second thought. However, he suggests that when we give in to these involuntary impulses we often do not get the best results.

In his book, 3 Seconds: The Power of Thinking Twice, Dr. Parrott challenges us to resist the first impulse. He says “three seconds are enough time to give your first impulse a second thought. And that makes all the difference between wishing you could change things and actually transforming your life.”

The author does not say that every first impulse is always less than the best. But he asserts that there are six specific impulses that most of us accept without a second thought- and they do not serve us well.

It only takes three seconds to redirect a negative impulse in the human brain. That three seconds “separates those who excel from those who don’t,” says Dr. Parrott.

The six impulses that prevent us from achieving at the highest level are:

1. The impulse to give up before trying- because we feel helpless
2. The impulse to shun a challenge- because it feels daunting
3. The impulse to settle for the status quo- because we lack vision
4. The impulse to shirk responsibility- because it is easier to shift blame
5. The impulse to do the mere minimum- because that’s all that’s expected
6. The impulse to avoid taking action- because we fear failure

The author proposes what it takes to overcome these unproductive impulses. “It requires a momentary pause of three seconds to consider what we really want. It requires a suspension of our natural inclination to remember that we have a choice in what we will say, what we will do, and who we will be.”

If Dr. Parrott is correct, and I suspect he is at least on the right track, the same principle can be applied to our words which give expression to our thoughts. The Bible instructs us to be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19). We are warned that the tongue is hard to harness and is very powerful (James 3:2-8). A three second delay in speaking could often spare us a lot of grief. That brief pause could allow the brain to redirect our thoughts and our words to a more productive end.

Lord, give us the patience to wait three seconds before we respond!

Jamie Jenkins