It’s a no-brainer that our decisions have consequences – the question is do our actions reflect our knowledge of this simple fact?
It was the know-it-all comment by a teen-age girl to her mom that prompted me to re-examine my own actions. As I was going about my own business in the locker room at the local pool where I go for my weekly swim, I over-heard a mom and her teen-age daughter arguing. At the crux of their argument was the daughter’s refusal to place her bag inside one of the lockers. I did not find it surprising that the daughter refused to do so – or even that she rolled her eyes in the process. On the other hand, I found it fascinating to hear how the daughter justified her decision. With some attitude, she told her mom, almost verbatim: “What’s the point mom? It’s such a waste of time to put my bag in a locker. What for?” Now, I’m far from being a mind-reader, but after watching ‘What Women Want’ (2000) I’ve become quite good at listening to people’s thoughts. I could hear the mom thinking: “Yeah right, taking 30 seconds to put your bag in a locker is a waste of time! I’ll tell you what’s a waste of time…taking weeks to replace your stolen documents and to earn back your allowance!”
From how that argument unfolded – the mom lost – I learned that what may seem very minor decisions throughout our day, deserve more of our attention because they could end up disturbing our lives in a major way.
For example, while I was working as a pastry apprentice in a hot hotel kitchen in Miami, some days standing on my feet for 12 hours at a time, the last thing that I wanted to do at the end of my shift was clean my tools. A shower and a bed was all that was on my mind. But I learned the hard way that dashing out with a tool-box full of sticky knives and piping cones was not a smart move. After spending an afternoon cutting chocolate cakes and then plating desserts until mid-night, I decided to go home (a shower & a bed) without properly cleaning my serrated knife. That’s when I found out that staying back 10 more minutes after a shift to run my tools through hot water was a piece of cake in comparison to having to empty out my tool box to get rid of the ant colony that was inside having a feast. What about when writing a document at work, be it a contract for a client or a board paper, or a fax. Do we feel it’s a drag to stop every few minutes to hold down the Control and the S keys? (for my Mac it’s Command and S) Realistically, how much of our time does doing that take? On the other hand, how long would it take us to re-produce the document if our computer crashed? (okay, Mac’s don’t crash as often, but still you get my point) One situation that I’ve been struggling with for the past 9 years is every time – without fail – that we leave the house, my husband asks me as I’m about to walk out the door, if I have my house keys. Almost each time – without fail – I can feel myself roll my eyes (just like the teen-ager in the locker room) and say to myself: “here he goes again!”. But, here I go. For the first time ever, I’m willing to admit that he’s doing the right thing. He’s thinking about the consequences. And I’m hoping that following my almost indecent exposure that you’ll agree that as annoying as it may be to check for house keys, that it’s much more aggravating and time consuming to be locked out of the house.
With this I’m not advocating that we lead paranoid existences. I’m proposing that we become more preventive and think through our decisions – even the small ones.
Which decisions could you play forward and stop the self-sabotage?