The REAL Reasons Behind Your Pattern of Lateness
At the 2011 New Jersey Governor’s Conference for Women, I spoke on the topic, “If You Want Time, You Haveå to Make It.” During the Q&A, a participant said, “I’m always running late, and I don’t know why. I try to be on time, but it seems like I never am.” Then, she asked, “Why is that?” BIG question…profound question.
The answer appears to be obvious: plan better. Agreed?! Valid perspective; one that probably applies to many of us. But, this answer only scratches the surface. There’s more to uncover.
The “Border Patrol” in your mind wants you to accept its first, simple, straightforward, rational explanation. It wants to keep you from digging deep enough to get to the emotional root of the problem – the place where your vision is distorted and you are blind to truth. The “Border Patrol” would have you think it’s as simple as: plan better and leave earlier. For most us, it’s not that easy because there’s more than poor planning that sustains a chronic pattern of lateness.
The deeper reason lateness tends to be part of many of our personal patterns is that it’s often an expression of:
- Hidden, unacknowledged resistance – in essence, an unarticulated “No! I will not…” A covert, passive-aggressive, way of saying, “I don’t really want to!”
- Anxiety sparked by subconscious concerns about perfection, “performing” well, getting it right, fitting in. Worried, concerned and frightened, you find a way to delay facing the possibility of failure or rejection.
- Being overwhelmed – the beastly burden of piling it on and bearing up under staggering pressures. Always having too much to do…more than can be reasonable done in the time available. Not feeling good enough, important or valuable unless you’re under pressure.
- A sense of superiority, conscious or unconscious, which conveys the message: “I’m more important than you.” Or, “What I’m doing is more important than you or what we’re suppose to do together.”
Your “Border Patrol” would have you NOT see these less familiar, embarrassing, even painful, underlying drivers. While such mindsets, attitudes and beliefs are hard to acknowledge, if you want to be better and do better, they have to be uncovered and mindfully addressed.
The way to get to the bottom of any problem is to get to its root – its emotional root. There, you’ll be closer to the cause, not just the symptoms. When the problem is addressed at this level, real and sustained change happens. Here’s a helpful process for exploring the deeper cause of this pattern in your life.
Intentionally Reflect. Opt for the deeper truth that comes through self-exploration. Examining your habits of thought, emotions and actions guarantees new self-insights. You’ll gain important information about why you do what you do and the unconscious drivers of your behavior will be clearer to you. Ask yourself:
- Am I late to work because I’m bored, unchallenged or angry?
- Am I dragging my de-energized, resentful, unwilling self to places I’d rather not be?
- Do I believe that working hard, even overworking, makes me more important and valuable?
- Am I pressuring myself to be perfect in the eyes of others; to fit their standards?
- Am I worrying and obsessing over how I’ll be seen and received by others
- Is my “performance anxiety” resulting in delayed departures and arrivals?
- What message does my pattern of consistent lateness make crystal clear…to me and those observing?
- Do I really care about the impact my tardiness has on others?
- Do I allow myself to be late with certain people because they are not as important as I am?
Make Conscious Choices. As you listen to your responses to these questions, you’ll become more aware of why you make choices that result in lateness. With this quality of insight, you can now begin to make new choices that will enable you to:
- Release resistance by being true to your heart-felt preferences.
- Do more of what you really want to do versus what you feel shamed or pressured into doing.
- Let go of your angst about failure or rejection.
- Cease excessive doing – start to value being with yourself and others in a more relaxed way versus incessant, anxiety-driven doing.
- Develop and demonstrate a healthy respect for yourself and others.
Over time, if you hold fast to the practices of intentional reflection and making conscious choices, you will transform your pattern of lateness. It will become a part of your past.
Late, again? Not you. Never.