For as long as I can remember I have enjoyed life more when there is a level of predictability to the things I do frequently. I will put up with some very annoying behaviours and patterns providing I have had enough time to get used to them. For example, I know that I’m going to be standing in line when I go to the bank to make my student loan payment each month, I know that I’m better off using the cashier instead of the self-serve check-out when I’m buying produce at the local Real Canadian Superstore and I am certain that the QEW east bound is going to be really slow when I leave work before 5 PM on Friday’s. These are things I’m certain of because I have experienced them often enough to figure-out their pattern and I find them very low stress because I am prepared for them.
Up until very recently I would find myself getting annoyed when there was a change to one of these patterns. Probably the biggest source of this type of frustration has been the check-in procedure the front desk of any GoodLife fitness clubs other than the Milton coed club where I work; my card will only open the gate at the Milton club because GL’s check-in system cannot immediately check you in if you are a member of a different GL club, so when I go to Burlington and scan my card, nothing happens and the gate does not open.
I know the gate won’t open so that doesn’t cause me the frustration. What I used to find annoying is the lack of consistency in the check-in process between the different clubs. At some they smile and open the gate, at others they take you card and open the gate and at others they ask you to write down your name, membership number and the time of day on a check-in sheet before taking your card and letting you in. The other option is they look at you with suspicion, take your card and check your member number in the system, then ask for ID and then get you to fill out the check-in sheet. I am willing to follow any one of these procedures every time I visit but I don’t understand why it varies between clubs and even between individuals at the same club.
A few weeks ago I was walking down the stairs at the Oakville club thinking about what was about to happen and a realization hit me. What was frustrating me was the absence of predictability and the feelings of helplessness I had when I go to check in – no matter what I think is about to happen, there is a very good chance that I am going to be wrong and the front desk person is going to have me jump through a different set of hoops. I identified, that if I knew before hand what was about to happen, it wouldn’t be an unpleasant experience for me, it would just be something I do. So I grabbed the sign-in sheet, filled in the required information, handed over my membership card, showed them my drivers licence, smiled and said “hello”. They unlocked the gate and I went in. I wasn’t asked to do anything else because I had already done everything they could have wanted me to do. It was a small thing, but I had moved the locus of control back to me and removed that helpless “what is about to happen to me” feeling that the process normal facilitated.
Since then I have carried this lesson over to a number of different areas in my life. At home, I expect that I’ll be making the bed in the morning, taking out the garbage and washing the dishes before I go to work instead of wondering whether or not Rachel will or thinking about the possible reasons why she didn’t. At the gym, I assume that there is going to be someone using the squat rack for biceps curls so I don’t consider doing squats until I am loading the weight onto the bar.
I have started to uncover the things that annoy me and I am modifying my behaviour to ensure that I control what ends up happening as often as possible. I determine what needs to happen and then make the process or procedure that I follow consistently so I don’t give others the opportunity to determine my behaviour. Doing this has dramatically reduced the amount of stress that I experience and it has returned a lot of joy to things that I was beginning to find somewhat painful.
Things are predictable because I make them predictable.