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Power Trial #2 – Be On Time for Everything

October 19, 2009

Last week when I begun my first personal growth Power Trial, I knew that there were a lot of things in my life that I wanted to change. I also knew that I lacked the power, motivation, and self-discipline to change everything at once. My purpose for completing these Power Trials is to become stronger as a person and to gradually learn to exercise my power, not make huge changes overnight that I would struggle to fully integrate into my daily life. That being said, I didn’t want to wait a whole month between trials and risk losing my motivation.

My solution to this problem is to stagger my 30 day Power Trials. I will begin a new 30 Day Power Trial every week over the next couple of months, thereby giving myself one full week to become accustomed to the lifestyle changes brought about by the preceding Power Trial.

My first Power Trial was to sleep more and give up caffeine. One week has elapsed from the start date, so today is the dawn of a new Power Trial!

My Habit

I have been late to pretty much everything for as long as I can remember. I literally live by the motto “always late but worth the wait.” As a teenager, I lived a whole two blocks from my high school. I was late about 75% of the time. During my first couple of years at university, I would oversleep and arrive after my lecture or tutorial had already started. Nowadays I rarely get to parties until at least two hours after they begin. I usually run between twenty minutes and half an hour late for dinners, even ones that I am hosting. I miss the train with alarming regularity. Even for one-on-one social meetings, I show up between one and twenty minutes late. In fact, about the only thing that I am actually on time for is my job, where I slide into my seat between the minutes of 8:28am and 8:32am every day.

This is partly due to my tendency to grossly underestimate the time it takes me to do anything. I tend not to factor in shower, hair, make-up, and travel time, somehow assuming I can cheat time and materialise at my desired destination at will. As a direct result, I can be doing absolutely nothing in the preceding three hours to an engagement, but won’t start getting ready until half an hour past the last second. Another reason is that I harbour a very strong dislike for wasting my time waiting for other people. So much so in fact, that I have just taken to being late all the time so I never have to wait at all. Completely hypocritical and counter-intuitive, I know.

This habit is something that has been with me for over ten years. It’s very firmly entrenched, so rather than just have a random stab at breaking it I wanted to examine exactly what purpose this habit serves, and why I want to break it.

Why I Want to Break This Habit:

  1. Being late to everything puts me under constant stress. Every morning on the way to work I am scrambling to get my things together. I leave the house at 7:45 on the dot (which I’ve established is the exact last minute that I can leave the house and still catch the last train…if I run). I usually finish up with my accessorising and getting my bags together in the car at traffic lights. I’ve become rather adept at using these stray minutes. If I get one more red light than I bargained for on the way to the station, I’ll miss the last train that can get me to work on time. This is a STUPID habit which results in me putting myself under constant and completely unnecessary stress five days a week for no good reason.
  2. It’s embarrassing being late for everything! I’m forever apologising for my lateness because I know how rude and inconsiderate it is to keep other people waiting.
  3. Everyone who knows me refers to me as some variant of the Girl Who Is Always Late. Let’s just say that I’ve been told that social engagements start half an hour before their actual starting time on more than one occasion. It’s meant as a joke and a precaution to take so I actually make it to events on time, but the fact that people even have to consider doing that is in itself, pretty bad.
  4. Being late shows a complete and utter lack of respect for the people I am meeting. Although this certainly isn’t my intention, it how it is perceived regardless. Some friends rib me about this lightheartedly, some don’t notice because they have a tendency to show up to things as late as what I do (which I can not reasonably comment on because that would make me a HUGE hypocrite), while others tell me in no uncertain terms that they would appreciate having their time respected, thank you very much!

It makes very little difference to my actions regardless of what approach people take with me since this habit is so firmly ingrained, probably because until now I didn’t consciously know why I had this behavioural pattern. Now that I know what purpose the habit serves, I’m sure it will be easier to break it.

Perceptions

I have noticed that I am much more likely to be late and by a much greater time frame if I am attending a group event where there is not a huge amount of importance placed upon my individual participation. Common situations include house parties, informal gatherings, large parties, large dinners, conventions, lectures, classes of any kind, arbitrary decisions to meet up with friends on nights out, or in general leaving any engagement where my individual participation is valued to go to one where I will just be part of a crowd. Of course, there are also some engagements that I simply do not want to be a part of, but have allowed myself to be pressured to attend and show the height of maturity by throwing a silent rebellion in protest. In these situations I average between half an hour and two hours late.

In contrast, I am more likely to show up on time to those things where my individual contribution is strongly relied upon, my absence would be highly conspicuous, or there are serious consequences for not being there on time. Common situations include meeting a friend for coffee or dinner, first dates, work, making a flight, getting into a concert, or anything in which I have a strong emotional investment. In these situations I usually hover between dead on time and twenty minutes late.

What Purpose Does This Habit Serve?

Ah, the tricky part. This is the part where I reveal way too much about the inner workings of my mind and get to take a good, hard look at myself and do some serious psychoanalysis.  Here goes.

My habit of being perpetually late is avoidance behaviour.

A lot of people don’t know this about me, and most laugh in disbelief when I tell them. The truth is that I am quite a shy person by nature and often find it difficult to make conversation with people. I have moments of extroversion, even extreme extroversion depending on my state of mind, but a lot of the time I feel like a socially awkward misfit. This is more pronounced with people with whom I’m not comfortable or don’t know well, but at times I even feel it around people with whom I’m close.

History

I believe this stems in part from the ostracism I experienced during my childhood and teenage years for being “different.” While my peers were talking about boys, parental issues, and shopping, I’d be mapping out a strategy to beat my latest video game, practicing my imitation of whatever animal currently fascinated me (much to the surprise of onlookers), reading endless fiction stories, or daydreaming about martial arts. It wasn’t as though the things my peers discussed never crossed my mind; they just paled in importance in comparison to my own interests. I didn’t have any girlfriends who were interested in the same things as me. Occasionally one would humour me and wrestle or have a crack at a video game, but on the whole teenage girls who were gamers erring on the geeky side of life who thought that throwing kicks and punches at one another was a fun pass time were rarer than hen’s teeth.

I had little in common with anyone growing up and rarely spoke to people outside my small friendship group; which for the most part was made up of people who didn’t ‘quite’ fit anywhere else either. When I did finally decide to be more true to myself and consciously break the social mould, I lost many friends.

The Point

Anyway, the point of that little regression is that some of the scars left from those times have carried over into adulthood. Despite the fact that I now have a group of wonderful, supportive friends and fellow weird people who ‘get’ me, some part of me still expects that the default reaction to me being myself will be non-acceptance. It’s only when I really make the effort to be a social epicentre that I feel I can initiate and maintain a good conversation. I’ve learned to do it through sheer persistence, but it certainly doesn’t come naturally to me and I need to get myself into the right frame of mind to do it successfully.

How It All Relates

There are usually a lot of people at parties and gatherings that are either just acquaintances or I who don’t know at all. After many years of not reaching out due to fear of how people would react to me, putting myself in these situations means I have to face the possibility of being judged and ostracised as someone who doesn’t quite fit all over again. A lot of the things which fascinate me are certainly not the subject of most polite social chit chat. I write about domestic violence and personal development. I enjoy pole dancing. I like quirky social experiments. I love discussing about things like body language, relationship dynamics, psychology, polyamorous relationships, the Law of Attraction, veganism, and random personal development exercises like polyphasic sleep. Quite frankly I couldn’t give two hoots about who won what sport, what the weather is like, the latest celebrity scandal, or what so-and-so said to so-and-so last week. I find that by getting to parties and such things early I’m forced to partake in polite social chit chat with other early-comers, who usually feel socially awkward themselves. It puts pressure and stress on me because I’m not a naturally confident conversationalist and don’t delve into a long-winded monologue just to hear myself talk. Unless I know you really well AND am in a naturally chatty mood, I tend to stick to the facts and not get overly decorative with descriptors, emotions, and embellishments, though you probably wouldn’t guess that from my writing style. Consequently, my conversations tend to be quite short. This is fine once there are plenty of people at a party. It’s not so good when there are only one or two other people. These things, combined with the fact that I often struggle to find common threads with people means I just don’t feel comfortable expressing myself and conversing with people I don’t know. In case it wasn’t obvious by now, breaking this habit is going to push me COMPLETELY out of my comfort zone.

I am better with events where my individual contribution is valued. This is usually because if I’m meeting someone one-on-one, they already know me and love me for who I am. In comparison to breaking the large party lateness, I expect this one to be relatively easy.

The Trial Rules

  • I will be at least ten minutes early for all professional engagements
  • I will catch the earlier train to work, and be five minutes early for it.
  • I will show up for parties and events that are hosted at people’s homes exactly on time, since it’s a tad rude to show up early when they may still be doing preparations.
  • I will show up to everything else at least ten minutes early
  • If I break any of these even once, the trial restarts from day one.

Wish me luck and keep me honest!

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One Response to “Power Trial #2 – Be On Time for Everything”

  1. Go TAZ go! I love it!

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