Saturday, September 14, 2013

Borrowing trouble from the future

My environment growing up caused me to be quite pessimistic. I also have the tendency to play out future possibilities in my head. This combination often leads me to expect a bad conclusion to something before it ever happens which I wind up stressing over until the event actually occurs.

Yesterday was a good example. I had purchased a set of tires for my car which included free rotation and balancing for the life of the tires. When I brought my car in, they took my initial paperwork and receipt and put it with the work order.

I wandered around the store for quite some time, never hearing my name called. The second time I checked, I found my car had been completed and they had not called me. This, of course, lowered my expectations of their performance. They checked me out and I began driving home when I realized my original paperwork and receipt were missing.

So I turned around and headed back to the store. I was told the service department was closed and was directed to customer service. The clerk there went looking for someone from automotive and it turned out they were not closed and someone was still there. Expectations were again lowered.

The person I spoke with was not the initial person that checked me in and no one was around that knew anything about my missing paperwork. No one was interested in pursuing the matter so I asked when they opened the next day.

That morning, I called only to find out the person that had processed me would not be in for another 2 or 2 1/2 hours. I decided at that time that a face-to-face would be better and drove over to the shop.

I found the person that had served me and was told they did not know where the original paperwork was. Luckily, the other clerk overheard the conversation and told my clerk that the papers had been found and put with last nights papers.

My clerk went looking for the original paperwork and did finally find it. Although the process was stressful and annoying, I let it preoccupy my thoughts and affect my attitude for much more time than it needed.

I recall a management class that used this problem of not being "present" in the moment to teach us a simple technique very useful when you notice such thoughts distracting you, especially at critical times like driving. When you notice you've wandered into a subject from the future or past, say out loud, "Stay!". Refocus on the present and stop thinking about the distraction.

It may take a few times when the issue is particularly strong in your mind so let's hope the windows are rolled up as you drive down the road hollering "stay, Stay, STAY!!!"

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