While it may seem a bit rude to say, we all do stupid things. It is a fact of human nature that there will be times when we do something that makes no sense at all. I do it. You do it. We all do it. That said, stupid things aren’t always simply stupid. Often we are just distracted, upset or angry and this leads us to do stupid things. Most importantly, once we recognize that we are all capable of doing stupid things, we can work harder to minimize those occurrences. This is how we learn and grow.
Audio Book – MP3 – 42 mins
Why we do “stupid things”
As you might realize based on the introduction, many of the stupid things we do aren’t really stupid at all. Truly stupid things would be those actions taken out of ignorance or lack of thought about the consequences. Sure, there might be a few of those things in your day, but for the average person, these are few and far between. It is far more likely that we do stupid things out of inattention, distraction or anger than actual stupidity.
It is easy to become distracted. How many of us have left our coffee cup, briefcase or other object on top of the car and then started to drive away? We weren’t being stupid. Something else was taking our full attention and we simply didn’t have the mental space for the smaller item. I think this is one of my own biggest reasons for doing stupid things. I become so focused on something else — usually something unimportant — I leave something where it shouldn’t be or forget to do something important.
We can get distracted for any number of reasons. Perhaps we are trying to juggle too many items. Maybe someone else is trying to talk to us about one thing when we should be actively concentrating on another. Perhaps we are worried or scared or not feeling well. Each of us has our own distractions and you will need to notice and learn from your own distraction triggers if you want to reduce the amount of stupid things you do.
The next most common reason we do stupid things is out of anger. We all have stories of friends who kicked the flat tire, punched a wall or did something else injurious because we were angry. Anger short circuits our thought processes and leads us to do things we might never do otherwise — slam doors, throw things, shout loudly and angrily. We almost always regret doing these actions moments later, but when we allow ourselves to be taken by the moment, we can do some amazingly stupid things. This is why the “count to 10” rule is so often advised when we are feeling angry. Simply counting to 10 can help us overcome the urge to lash out and let our thinking catch up to our actions.
How to do fewer stupid things
First, you must realize that all of us will do something stupid nearly every day. As I mentioned, it is simply part of the human condition. Our goal is not to try and eliminate ALL the stupid things we do, but rather do as few stupid things as possible. Trying to eliminate them all would probably cause you to go mad and, in some cases, insure that you do nothing at all, out of fear of making a mistake. You don’t want to drive yourself to inaction while trying to drive yourself away from distraction. You still have to live within the everyday world. Rather, you want to use a few simple tools to help you reduce the amount of stupid things to a low enough level that they really don’t have a major impact on your life.
First, you need to begin to better understand what distracts you and when you are most likely to be distracted. For some of us it is in the morning confusion and rush. For others, it might be in the car in traffic. For still others, it could be later in the evening when you are trying to get something accomplished. Think back over the last few weeks and try to remember when you did something stupid. Were you being distracted by something? Can you remember the situation or source of the distraction? How could you avoid such distractions in the future? Identifying those moments and bringing yourself back to focus can go a long way towards reducing your stupid things.
Next, learning to understand and control your anger is also extremely important. Some of us are more prone to it than others. I am pretty level headed at most times, but certain things can set me off into a downward anger spiral. It is very important for me to be aware of these triggers and do everything I can to avoid them, or minimize them when they occur. If you have similar feelings, paying more attention to this could greatly improve your work and your life. Sure, there are some things that will make you angry and some things that should make you angry, but you can’t let those feelings run away with you all the time.
We all do stupid things. That is simply part of being a human being. You shouldn’t hate yourself for them. What you can and should do is learn from your stupid moments and reduce their occurrence as much as you can. Even moving from two stupid things per day to one could make your life and your career much, much better.