I misplaced my car keys the other morning and it nearly drove me crazy until I found them. For some reason, I seem to be misplacing and losing stuff more during the pandemic. I ended up finding my keys on the picnic table where I had been doing exercises the day before. My exercise routine helps provide order in my life. Losing stuff creates a sense of disorder. I guess this pandemic is teaching us how to cope with both order and disorder.
For the record, it didn’t really drive me crazy when I thought my car keys were lost. I have been around enough crazy people to know I wasn’t really like them. It was more that I was having a hard time forgiving myself for making a dumb mistake, which is different from being crazy. If insane moments are like a psychological hemorrhage, unforgiving moments are more like a spasm. Needless to say, spasms can be painful, whether they occur in your outer musculature or your inner heart. With all spasms, the pain is caused by a severe contraction and the relief comes from loosening up.
Perfectionists have trouble loosening their standards and making peace with imperfection. I am not a perfectionist, but I still have trouble making peace with dumb mistakes. Fortunately, I was much better at making peace with my children’s mistakes, because I viewed their mistakes as part of a learning process. Maybe we should all view ourselves as learners and accept that there is no such thing as mistake-free learning. I often remind athletes that perfection is not a choice when it comes to competition. The choice is whether you’re going to make mistakes that are too bold or mistakes that are too timid.
The potential for learning is greater when you make mistakes that error in the direction of boldness. One exception is when it comes to driving an automobile—because those mistakes can be fatal. Teenage males are notoriously poor drivers because of all the foolishly bold mistakes they make. I once made a foolishly bold driving mistake as a middle-aged driver when I was taking my sons to soccer practice. Fortunately, Honda has some really smart people designing their automobiles and we all walked away from a totaled vehicle without a scratch. I became a different driver after this accident. I became a different person. I drove the speed limit. I gave myself extra time to get wherever we needed to go. I learned to slow down.
Without realizing it, I think I started to speed up again during the pandemic. That is probably why I’ve been misplacing and losing stuff. People tend to make more mistakes when they hurry. This is true for athletes, true for dads hurrying to get their kids to practice. Hurrying is a habit in the same way that calmness is a habit. I used to think I could hurry calmly, but I was just fooling myself. I suppose fooling yourself is a habit too. Now is a good time to reflect on our habits. Life is not a race; if it were, death would be the finish line.
And who is in a hurry to get there?