Why we make the same mistakes

The same mistakes.

I was on the phone with a business contact discussing a project.

He apologized for being slightly late for the call and told me it was because he'd just cut himself with a kitchen knife that morning - and not only that, he'd actually cut himself twice, in the space of a week - on the same finger. 

He said he felt tired, like he was rushing around on autopilot.

Photo by  Aaron Thomas  on  Unsplash

Photo by Aaron Thomas on Unsplash

He acknowledged how much time and energy he seemed to be wasting on simple tasks like chopping vegetables - all because he was tired, distracted and rushing. He could see it was taking longer to get things done, because he was rushing through his day.

At some point later that week I noticed a status update from a friend who works for a law firm.

She'd been trying to juggle carrying her briefcase, lunch box and ID card and in the midst of trying to do three things at once, had tripped and fallen on some steps, landing with her full weight on her left finger and ended up in emergency and then wearing a sling for weeks afterwards.

Then, last week we took a much anticipated family road trip to Quebec City.

We were sitting in a recommended restaurant and noticed very few options on the menu for small kids. Thankfully it was no obstacle for our waiter who told us to select any meal on the menu - and they'd give us a half portion for our kids and charge half the price. Sounded good! We made our choice and asked them to remove the meat that came with it, which they had no problem doing.

20 minutes later the boys' food arrived, not only as adult portions, but also with meat. They apologized and said we could still eat the adult size portions for half price. Now imagine this happened in your restaurant a few times a week, as a restaurant owner, you'd likely end up losing money and customers.

I suspect mistakes and accidents caused by rushing and distraction happens more often than we realize and comes at a cost.

They used to happen to me frequently - until I started practising mindfulness (read a little bit further down, to see how it made a difference).

Being busy can be counterproductive.

I used to race around my kitchen, especially first thing in the morning while getting myself and my boys ready for work/school and 'my thing' was to constantly bump my hip bone on the sharp corners of our granite kitchen island. 

I accepted that's just the way it was.

I wasn't really paying attention to it and kept going at my usual breakneck pace. 

I didn't realize how counterproductive it was to be constantly busy.

The more distracted I was and the more I rushed, the more mistakes and accidents I made. It didn't occur to me then, if I slowed down I might get more done and be less reactive to boot. 

As far as I was concerned slowing down (let alone meditating) was just a big waste of time.

How wrong I was.

Sometimes we can't avoid being late for a meeting, life happens.

But when we're late for a meeting because of an accident we could have prevented, it can impact our productivity for a much longer period. Like ending up with your arm in a sling for weeks. It prevents you from doing your full work load and creates stress on your routine, family and friends.

And serving the wrong food order - may just put you out of business. 

More common than we realize.

These kinds of small accidents are more common than we realize.

Evidence suggests there's a major impact on our work and our lives because of our distractedness and busyness - which leads to mistakes and injuries.

We know of several studies around injury investigation and trips and falls, which indicate most are caused by being inattentive or distracted. 

A 2013 study by the Michigan State University found that interruptions of just 2.8 seconds whilst carrying out a task double the likelihood of error.

How to make fewer mistakes.

So how does mindfulness help?

With practice, mindfulness helps us focus for longer periods of time at work and at home without getting distracted. And it also gives us the ability to stay focused when we are under time constraints and stress. That's a game changer.

The absolute key thing to understand - and experience through your own direct practice - is it helps us notice the moment we get distracted and return our focus to whatever we happen to be doing. (After you practice this for a while, you start to notice how frequently your mind wanders and you get caught up in daily distraction).

That's the secret to fewer accidents and mistakes.

Knowing the moment we get distracted, acknowledging it and re-directing our attention back to whatever it was were were focussing on - is the objective of mindfulness.

That's what we call the moment of waking up after being on auto-pilot mode.

For me, mindfulness is a skill which has helped me become more consciously aware of everything.

I'm more aware of my surroundings, sounds, sights, smells. It's helped me get out of my head and into my body, which has changed the quality and strength of my focus, attention and inner wisdom.

And it's shown me a deeper more spiritual way to be present in my life. 

It's like you can see more clearly, you become more intentional with your actions, make wiser - and sometimes - more difficult decisions and become increasingly adept at letting things be.  

My invitation for you.

Take a little moment to pause and notice the sensation of your normal breathing.

Just for a few moments.

And then ask yourself the following:

When have you found yourself rushing or distracted in the last few weeks? Was your mind busy or distracted? Was it in your car, at home or at work? Is there a time of day you find yourself more distracted? Have you had any accidents recently, either small or significant?

What’s the biggest insight you can take away? Share your wisdom with us in the comments below and let's learn from each other.

Photo by Lacie Slezak on Unsplash