Why do clumsy accidents happen to good people?
This morning at 5am, I am standing at the expert traveler security line (the TSA‘s fancy privilege for frequent air travelers – and of course I consider myself one but read on for the irony). One wrong move in my haste to get through the security X-rays and over the clamor of people behind me, I hear Coco, my darling MacBook Pro, fall to the ground! My heart drops way low into my belly and I am gasping for air. What in this world have I done? Thankfully, the extra cushions with which I had housed her protect her life and the heavens spare me an emotional and financial disaster this time.
During an otherwise uneventful bath on a winter evening, in one swooping and regretful motion, I manage to drop my Blackberry into a tub filled with nothing but bubbles and hot water. Think “submerged” for a sensitive electronic device. Think panic and desperation and a dead smart phone.
Two weeks ago just before dawn, I am carrying my book downstairs to start my day and bam! I miss one step and tumble down seven more to land hard on my left cheek. My husband did not need an alarm that morning to know it’s time to get up and for days afterward, a big purple bruise startles me into an unnecessary reminder about the lousy fall.
In immediate response to all these events, there is always one loud and clear message from my inner voice: Slow Down and Pay Attention, please!
Running into walls. Jamming my toe into objects such as furniture and dishwasher (not the tiny objects, mind you). Missing a step. Losing precious items. Bruising myself frequently. Making silly mistakes. Such is the unnecessary drama of my every day life. The confession of such blunders no doubt paints me as a clumsy and unorganized person. Allow me to set the record straight: I refute the veracity of both assumptions. I am super organized; there is a place for everything and everything is actually in its place. I am also not clumsy when I pay attention and have all my wits about me.
My main problem is that I am in too much of a hurry all the time! And the comical irony of life turns that haste into unnecessary delays in my path. In my haste to arrive at my goals with remarkable efficiency, I flounder where I could excel. In sour realization, I know every mistake in this particular category is completely avoidable if I just slow down. It is entirely up to me to avoid each and every one:
- I could have been more careful in placing Coco into the security line and positioning the box correctly on the conveyor belt before stepping away. No accident, no fall.
- I could have avoided submerging my Blackberry by simply remembering that I put it on my towel, by refusing to bring it in the bathroom altogether or even by simply looking before pulling out the towel from underneath. No submerged smartphone.
- I could have completely avoided the staircase fall by walking slower and holding the rail. No purple cheek. No pain.
Small changes make a Big difference:
Why live with such regrets when I could deplete them from my life altogether if I just slow down a little?
For as long as I can remember, I have been in an unnecessary hurry in life. I am running against the hourglass of life, glued to my goals and tasks, big or small. Efficiency and productivity are core to my identity but is the extra haste necessarily worth all the drama? Can small changes make a big difference and still allow me to be true to my core? Can slowing down rather than speeding up help me get ahead in life?
Excuses are never the answer to life’s avoidable problems. I refuse to accept that I have clumsy tendencies or irreversible habits of a hasty nature. Even if an ounce of truth is present in those arguments, which I do not believe, I plan to eradicate them altogether with simple, measured steps. These will be the last of silly, avoidable incidents, I tell myself over and over like a mantra and here are the steps I plan to follow to create new habits void of unnecessary haste.
1. Set Simple Rules to Follow:
These rules can belong to specific situations and they can be borderline silly but it little matters if it keeps you uneventfully safe. Here are my new rules:
No phones near bathrooms or showers or next to my hot cup of tea.
Always hold the rail when going downstairs.
Never talk on the phone while emailing or vice versa.
Always guard your electronics in transit.
Always place valuables in the safe before leaving a hotel room.
And so on and on.
Then memorize and follow the rules religiously. Use the phrase as a mantra to tell yourself over and over, loud and clear, until it becomes second nature. Fight complacency to keep your mind fresh and sharp!
2. Slow Down and Pay Attention:
Most of the dramas stem from lack of attention and ungodly haste. Attention to detail often takes just seconds but failing to pay attention can cost you upwards of minutes and hours later. Being present in every task is only fair; why would you dwell on a past action, a present thought or a future worry when none matter so much as the task at hand? Slowing down a little is a much better trade-off than saving 3 minutes as a result of always hurrying. I know this from experience the rare occasions I have followed my own advice! Now I plan to know it more and more from a well-established habit of slowing down and paying attention.
3. Be Selective when Multi-tasking:
It pays to be extremely selective about multi-tasking. In fact, I am rather against it! Most oversights happen as a result of multi-tasking because your attention divides and your focus shifts from one area to another. Multi-tasking is a master at attacking and weakening that full-on attention zone. Breaking the cycle of doing things this way takes real effort but small changes go a long way. Start with single tasking on your top priorities and repeat until the behavior becomes second nature to you. Over time, less oversights shall befall you with this approach and what a relief to escape these avoidable mistakes in life!
Think Before you Act:
I am not talking about pausing for 20 minutes to reflect on everything you do. I mean collect your thoughts and think for 30 seconds or even 10 seconds before you embark on tasks. Thinking will naturally slow you down and remove the unnecessary haste. It will collect your thoughts and focus your attention where it belongs and I am willing to bet it will deplete those clumsy accidents and save you and me heaps of heartache and regret.
Counter-intuitive as it may be, slowing down and thinking before we act with haste will help us get ahead in life.