Responding to False Starts
By Lisa Seppala, True North Implementation
A participant had two false starts in a speed skating event I watched during the recent Winter Olympics. That skater went on to win the race, and it made me wonder how the actions of the one skater affected the other. Did the false starts cause the other skater to lose focus? Were they a distraction? Are athletes at this level trained to deal with false starts?
I’m sure there are many reading this article with answers to the above questions, but the observation made me think of how false starts show up and impact us in our regular, non-Olympian lives.
I keep a daily journal and often use it as a source of inspiration for my articles. I’ve recently noticed a theme emerging– it’s about planned events or actions that don’t materialize for various reasons – what I call ‘false starts’. Everything is ready to go, and then, nothing happens or there is a delay.
- Something came up for a client at the last minute, and they cancelled our meeting or delayed it by several minutes.
- The local utility scheduled planned maintenance that required customer preparation, but something disrupted the schedule that day, and it never happened.
- Finally sitting down to do something enjoyable and being interrupted soon after by a call from a family member with something urgent to discuss and address.
Everyone, at one time or another, is either the cause of or on the receiving end of these false starts.
If I am the cause, my immediate feeling is a sense of relief as I can now deal with the urgent issue that came up and caused me to alter my plans. I might feel guilty about the inconvenience to the other party, and depending on how significant the imposition was, I may check back in to apologize more fully.
If I’m on the receiving end, it’s a different story. Depending on the amount of effort spent preparing, it can sometimes take time for me to re-group and re-focus on something else. Other times, I welcome the ‘gift of time’, and I immediately pull from my list of to-dos to fill the gap.
False starts are a fact of life. In many cases, they can’t be helped – life happens. If you are the cause, you may want to consider how you could have anticipated the interruption that required you to change plans with the other party. Is there something you could have done differently?
If you are on the receiving end, forgive if forgiveness is even required, and move on. If it’s repetitive behaviour, you may want to set an expectation around how you want to be treated.
In the end, we all need to have an adaptability muscle, and we need to learn to use it well so we can support others as needed and support ourselves.
What is your response plan for false starts? How do you adapt when they occur?