I was lost in a dual carriage one-way road system in an unfamiliar town, desperately looking for any signs indicating my destination. Suddenly, I saw a billboard. Hallelujah! I quickly ascertained there was nothing coming towards me from the other direction and turned sharp right into the car park. Almost simultaneously, there was a screech of brakes and a loud, angry car horn.
I had turned across the other lane, forgetting it was one-way and frightening the life of the driver in a car driving in the right-hand lane, who was coming up behind me.
I parked up, and he came across to where I was sitting in the driver’s seat. Red in the face and clearly very angry, he started yelling at me.
I waited until he had run out of breath before quietly saying I was very sorry, and yes, it was a stupid mistake on my part that had nearly caused a nasty accident.
There was no dispute. I was in the wrong and hadn’t been thinking about my actions in my haste to find the shop and pick up my order, before it closed.
We all make mistakes. We’re human, but sadly, they can sometimes cost us dearly.
The mistakes we make are not usually deliberate. They are more likely to occur when we get caught up in the moment, are concerned with our own stress, concerns and worries, or are beyond tired.
Our ability to think clearly and well is paramount to our safety, our relationships and our resulting behaviours. Yet, too often, our workplace environment or health can negatively impact our workplace well-being and ability to perform well, resulting in poor decision-making, difficulty resolving problems, and making more mistakes.
Have you ever found yourself lost in your own thoughts during a meeting? Your son is off school with an ear infection. Your elderly mother has asked you to pop around after work tonight. Your performance review is coming up and you’re dreading the conversation.
Or perhaps you’ve got another migraine brewing. It’s the third this month, and you’re worried it’s going to negatively impact your team completing a big project if you have to take a couple of days off to recover.
Or you’re struggling to find common ground with your new supervisor, who doesn’t seem to like you, and appears to be going out of their way to find fault with anything you say or do.
There are several ways you can help reduce the risk and keep your thinking, sharp, focused and effective.
1. Be aware.
We’re not always very good at developing insight into what external or internal factors are impeding your thinking. Are your beliefs, values or mindset helping or hindering you? How can you prioritise what needs your attention right now? What distractions are pulling you away from your focus?
2. Take time out to think and reflect.
The most important appointment of any given day is the appointment you make with yourself to ask, “What am I doing well? What’s causing me to slip up? What do I need to do differently or get help with.” That honest conversation with yourself can help to prevent further muck-ups that could harm you or someone else or compromise your position in the company.
3. Show yourself some self-compassion.
It’s not fun to stuff up. When things are going pear-shaped, or you’ve made a real blooper, owning up and taking responsibility for your poor thinking provides you with the headspace to consider what contributed to this and to look for a better way to prevent it from recurring. Your boss, supervisor, and colleagues are far more likely to be supportive of your mistakes when you take ownership of your poor thinking. Giving yourself permission to be less than perfect while striving to do your best is a more helpful approach than castigating yourself for your stupidity.
4. Stay curious as to what triggers your poor thinking and behaviours.
If stress is your middle name, what’s the real cause of this? Is it to meet the high expectations you’ve placed on yourself or is it coming from an external source? How much support do you have? Can you access the resources you need?
5. Ask for feedback.
It’s hard to change what we do and how we think unless we ask. Uncomfortable as that may be, unless we can discover our blind spots we can’t do or think differently.
The payoff for higher-order thinking is that you’re less reactive, more empathetic, and more discerning about how your thoughts influence your feelings and actions, which positively impacts your interaction with others.
That’s the power of knowing if you’re applying a positive, negative or neutral lens to your thoughts.
Have you ever had that moment when you’re shaking your head wondering, “What was I thinking?!
I’d love to hear your story.
Dr Jenny Brockis is a board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, keynote speaker, trainer and best-selling author. Enrolments for the next intake of her 6-week Sustainable High-Performance Online Course are now open. You can reserve your place here.