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Stopping My Self-sabotage

November 17, 2008 9:54 AM

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. 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’ I’ve become quite good at listening into 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. One time, after spending an afternoon cutting chocolate cakes and then plating desserts until mid-night, I decided to go home (shower and 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.

Based on that, here’s some food for thought.

When writing a document at work, be it a contract for a client or a board paper, or a fax, do you 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 your time does doing that take? On the other hand, how long would it take you to re-produce the document if your computer crashed? (okay, Mac’s don’t crash as often, but still you get my point)

I’m not advocating that we lead paranoid existences. Instead 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?

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