Stuff happens. You pull out of the garage on your way to work, already thinking of what you need to do once you arrive. Suddenly, WHAM! You’ve sideswiped the huge dumpster that the contractor left in the driveway in preparation for an upcoming roof replacement.

We are creatures of habit, and when we introduce an unfamiliar thing (the dumpster) in a habit-laden situation (backing out of garage), problems often happen. How can you be more prepared for unexpected occurrences in all aspects of life?

Build in time. Pretend that you have to leave home ten minutes earlier than you really do. That will give you time to breathe and focus. You’ll be more likely to see that dumpster (or child or bike) and react appropriately. Set project deadlines similarly; “finish” the product, step away for a day and then tweak it with fresh eyes. You’ll be astounded at the errors you’ll find and improvements you can make when you’re not under the gun.

Add steps to your habit. Examine your habits for shortcuts. Instead of opening the garage door, getting in the car, fastening your seat belt and backing out, add a step. Scan behind you. It may help to put a sign in your car for a couple of weeks, until that new step becomes routine.

Realize that stuff happens, even to you. As the saying goes, most people think that accidents aren’t their fault and yet take personal responsibility for their hole-in-one on the golf course. Recognize that accidents happen to everyone – and most often we bear some culpability. Taking shortcuts, losing focus or being overconfident are signs that you think it couldn’t happen to you.

Consider what might happen and act accordingly. Think through all possible outcomes, not just what you expect and for which you are prepared. You may have spent countless hours driving safely while talking on your phone. However, what if it becomes a particularly intense conversation or a deer dashes across the road? Is it worth your (and others’) safety to talk on your phone while driving?

Being prepared for the unexpected not only promotes safety. These same strategies help you become more present, nimble and resilient in the face of change. You are off autopilot and fully engaged in the present task. What better way to manage the expected and unexpected issues faced by leaders today?


Need help exploring your habits and making change? Contact Humanergy.

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