Chemistry threw me off kilter. You’d think that a pleasant feeling (or at least a more pleasant feeling than I had felt on those awful practice exams) would translate to a good, or acceptable grade on an exam.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case this time.

An impulse is defined as a:

sudden and involuntary inclination prompting action

A billion impulses pass through a normal human brain everyday (and not even the kind of impulse neuroscience defines). We live and get affected by things and that we interact with, that flash out the corner of our eyes as we’re walking through a crosswalk, that break up with us in the most cutting ways, and that fail us on university courses. You can’t exist without changing. Without being pushed into different mental states that often bear impulses.

If you have a shit day, you’re gonna have more impulses that’ll probably make your next day worse. You throw up emotional stop gaps to stop the yourself from leaking joy:

“This chapter is boring? Put on a movie, set your feet up on the table, and forget about it for a while.”

Delegate your misery to your future self, and let the seconds tick by as you wait. Tick. Tock. Gone.

I don’t want to study for this.

I stood in the little room adjoining the farthest shower cubicle on the left. It had a small shelf where I tossed my clothes and stripped down. I has nothing but an iPhone in my hand and a watch with a khaki band wrapped tightly around my wrist. I let my slightly greasy thumb slide across the smooth flat glass and read a few tweets. I stood there for a while, reading about things that didn’t make me feel anything.

I am going to fail Chemistry. Maybe math, too.

I was probably being a little harsh on myself with the math crack. I’d done pretty well on the last few exams, and the material on this one wasn’t mind-blowing in the slightest. I should do fine, but my mind at the time kept sending impulses:

Whoah, Urban Meyer got Dunn to reaffirm his commitment to play at Ohio State? Damn, better look up some articles on that.

Besides, studying can wait.

Your mind keeps pushing you to avoid the hard problems. To slip into easy thinking, safe thinking, comforting thinking. Impulses, driven by bad days and swirling thoughts, make you feel like giving in is okay.

Perspective is important. If you can keep your eyes up, on a higher level of who you are, what you’re doing, and where you’re going, these little fighting impulses get weaker, or at least their effect diminishes.

You have to think constantly about your thinking. Shield your mind from stray thoughts. Be active about how you’re feeling and aim to change. Have intent.

You are your actions. Your actions, when your mind is thrown off track and unguarded, come from your impulses.

Don’t let your impulses make you.