Mama often said, “Never be a danger to yourself.” It sounded so wise to me, too wise to ask a “stupid” question like, “What do you mean by that, mama?”
I felt that it was one of those statements you obey even if you did not quite know how to obey it.
In time I came to ask and she said, “Don’t harm yourself by gossiping about people; love and like those who are causing you distress; speak kindly of people even when they are unkind to you and be grateful for little, because everything comes around . . . .”
The idea for today’s article arrived on my daily walk and I was minded to make it workplace-specific but then an email from a reader caused me to switch it to a more personal tone. So you get to choose the environment within which you apply these ideas.
We often get frustrated that we are not getting the results we anticipated from our efforts and we turn to our “single-branched” explanation tree and retrieve the default answer of blaming something or someone else for our circumstances.
My interpretation of what my mother said was that I must take responsibility for my actions and their consequences – a very important life lesson. It reminds me of the cashier I encountered a few years ago in a small supermarket, since folded. I was the last person in her queue and she was about to change shifts.
I asked her if she would oblige and check my ¼ litreTetra Pac of juice so that after being in her line for over ten minutes, I did not have to go join the other line which was pretty long.
Well, she promptly said, “I got to eat too. so ef yuh cahn wait, guh long,” and
I did. And mama’s words came to me. “Never be a danger to yourself.”
From where I stood, I felt that young lady was being a danger to herself, to me, to her co-workers, to other customers and the future relationship she just thwarted between me and the supermarket that paid her salary. Everything comes around.
The supermarket is closed today and it would be a stretch to say that she caused it. What is true, though, is that we often have attitudes that are dangerous. Reflect ,on that for a while. Without dissecting the incident, one could imagine that if the way we do one thing is the way we do everything, an attitude like this will spread to other interactions in her life.
Then someday she will become frustrated by her stagnation and blame something or someone outside herself for it. Just like the rest of us do.
So how are we harming ourselves? Apart from gossip, here are a few ways we place ourselves in danger by our own hands.
• Resisting change
• Breaking our agreements
• Ignoring our feelings
• Being jealous and competitive
• Painting ourselves as victims when we are the powerful opposite
• Encouraging negative thoughts and feelings (listen to yourself)
• Judging others
• Taking action without considering the consequences
• Anticipating negative outcomes
• Not spending quiet time
• Holding on to guilt and shame
• Unwillingness to forgive oneself and others for past misjudgments and infractions
• Having fights with others in your mind
• Getting in other people’s way
• Trying to change others
• Being too busy; neglecting others
• Feeling inferior or superior
• And the list goes on.
Imagine taking just one of these dangerous experiences into any aspect of your life. How could you not end up in lack, unhappy, disappointed, harbouring a sense of feeling stuck and so on.
Our cashier took her attitude of danger into the workplace. Where are you and I taking our attitudes of danger? What is “coming around” to us as a result of being so dangerous to ourselves? What is always true is that we will get results, whether we like them or not.
We choose our attitudes, outlook and our expression. Let’s release the harm and replace it with expressions of personal responsibility so that we get the results we really want. Life is good.
• Cheryl Gittens is a life performance coach to progessionals, and a lecturer at the University of the West Indies.