I’m desperate for money but I keep making the same mistake at work and I’m worried I’m going to get fired. My boss has a temper but I can’t blame him. Every time he asks me, “How can you keep making the same mistake over and over?” I never know what to say. It’s not like what he’s asking me is hard. But for some reason that’s always the thing I forget.
Those must be mighty unpleasant thoughts. If your finances are a matter of stress for you then you’re likely to waste a lot of time walking on eggshells in the hopes that you don’t make the mistake and then face the subsequent financial threat. But if your mind is focused on worrying then you’re actually more likely to make the mistake than if you were mindful.
This would all obviously be easier if your boss had an understanding that imminent threats only serve to distract employee’s thinking away from their work. Better that people feel cared about and supported. Then we’re motivated to do good work out of personal pride and a sense of respect toward our boss and co-workers. That’s human nature. It’s unfortunate that so many people work against our natures rather than with them. We trade a win-win for a lose-lose. But you don’t control your boss you only control you, so let’s focus on that.
First off—you always forgetting the same thing isn’t strange, it’s logical. Your brain is wired by your history. It will give you certain advantages and certain disadvantages. The “mistakes” you make will be consistent with duties that don’t fit well with the matrix of thought that is “you.” So ask a brilliant mathematician to describe a dance move and despite her intelligence she’s crippled. Likewise, ask the dancer to do some high level math and he’s stumped, unable to turn the numerical symbols into useful ideas. Both people are brilliant. But both will consistently be bad at the same things over and over. Because that’s who they are. So nothing’s wrong with you. You just have some duties that don’t suit your personality. But that’s okay. Everyone has those. You just have to build yourself a back-up.
As a manager I knew my weak points and I always made sure that my most senior employees were strong in the areas I was weak. You want to shore up your procedures in the same way. If you know you make the same kind of mistake over and over then you have to change the process so that it makes a different kind of sense to you. So say you’re great at physical work but you always forget to document what you do for invoicing purposes. You’re not lazy and you obviously have skills, but the way you see the world means you don’t think of documenting things. Maybe your family never took photos or you were never big on looking at the ones they did take. Something would have trained you not to think of the world as still images. So you need to find triggers that will lead you to ask yourself the question—should I be taking photos of this?
Maybe it’s a sign hanging on your toolbox and you have a ritual that you ask yourself the question every time you grab a tool. Or maybe you put white marks on the work and as you rub each mark off you ask yourself if you need any photos of where you’re at. The important thing is to just keep doing it for month even if you fail a lot of times. Because even the failures help wire the idea into your brain and I assure you, you will eventually begin to find the behaviour natural. And that same thing would apply to any skill you want to acquire. You just have to be willing to fail in order to cover the distance to collect the skill. There is no other way. But at least you can rewire yourself.
Get your angry boss off your back by expanding your abilities. Do not tell yourself that you’re the kind of person who can’t do that because that is only a story you tell yourself. Like Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” Your brain is amazing and it will do incredible things if you ask it to. So ask it to remember the things you tend to forget. Find ways to remind yourself. And be okay with failing. But over time the serious consideration of the idea will meld it into your being and like all things that now feel natural, you will have repeated the action in your mind enough times that it will have become an aspect of you.
Don’t be distracted by fearful thoughts. Be mindful. Be present in your own life. Quiet your mind and notice things. Your world will change. It’s a common thing for people to take my course and then find they’re much more mentally and physically coordinated. In fact they were always coordinated—they just weren’t mindful. Be mindful. Know your world in a deep and profound way. Understand more and then you won’t need to remember—you’ll see the action as part of a process that makes sense to you. You just have to alter the narrative you tell yourself about the work and ensure it includes everything your boss needs it to include. Do that and repeat it and it’ll be wired into you quite quickly. Your day will go better and your boss will be off your back. Congratulations.
Following a childhood accident should have left him dead, Scott McPherson spent his life meditating on thought, consciousness, reality and the self. Seeing the emotional damage done by ego-based overthinking he began dedicating a part of his life to guiding students toward more peaceful and rewarding lives. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, Canada.