Flip the Switch

Reframe by thinking differently

A Story

I’m going to tell you a story so that you can learn an important lesson without having to go through what I went through to learn it.  How’s that for a deal?  Then you’ll be able to do something that is incredibly easy and you won’t suffer through the lesson on how to do it.

A few years ago, I woke up to the news that there had been an ice storm and school was delayed by a couple of hours.  I was a single Mom and I did what most single Moms do when they learn they have a little extra time.   I decided to do something that I should have done and that I had been putting off.  I decided to go check on my empty house that I had for sale.  Now, why I thought it was a good idea to do that on icy roads, I don’t know, but I did.  As I drove across town to my house, my mind was full of all the things that I needed to do for work, things that wouldn’t happen because I was starting two hours late, and all the people who I  wouldn’t get to talk to because of the weather, etc.  You know how that is—work, work, work.

It was still dark outside when I arrived at the house.  I walked up on the porch and looked through the diamond window in the door.  I made my first discovery of this adventure—ice on the inside of the window.  Just so you know, that is a bad sign.  I opened the door and was astonished to find water pouring from the ceiling.  I reached over to turn on the light (bad idea, just so you know, when you’re standing in water).  The light didn’t come on, so I felt my way across the room and down the stairs to the basement where I felt my way along the wall to the water shut-off.  I came back upstairs and saw that the water had been turning to steam as it came through the ceiling (because the air was so much colder than the water) and then was forming ice on the walls and the floors.  The wind on an outside wall had apparently frozen the pipe, the pipe had burst, causing water to flow down to the basement and put out the furnace, which reduced the temperature in the house thereby freezing more pipes that then burst.  It was a mess!

What do you think happened to the thoughts of work?  Right.  Shoved aside.  Now I was thinking, OMG what do I do?  Is this insured?  How do I clean this mess up?  I called a plumber who came over.  He said, “Lady, we’re going to have to figure out what to do once we figure out if this house can be saved!”  SAVED?!  It’s a house!  It’s just water!

I spent the day dry vac’ing and mopping, calling insurance agents, and trying to get the mess cleaned up.  The house made the newspaper being described as “the ice house.”  (There was a spectacular ice flow that had made its way out the bricks and draped itself down the back wall of the house!)

The next morning was a Saturday.  Soccer practice and kid errands.  Before the kids got up, I decided to go check the house.   On my drive to the house, I was thinking about the house—how was it? What would happen?  What would happen to the floors?  The walls?  When I arrived at the house, I was relieved to see that the downpour had slowed to drip drip drips that were being caught by buckets.  The floors and walls looked ok (that was before I understood what happened to wood floors and paint when it dried out after a coating of ice).
I headed home much relieved.

I got out of the car and my feet slipped out from under me on the ice. The back of my head hit hard on the driveway.  As I was losing consciousness, I realized that I was going to be laying outside in way below freezing temperatures for potentially a long time (it was, after all, a Saturday morning and my house was full of teenagers—they wouldn’t even miss me for hours).  The neighbors would just think we left something in the driveway again and wouldn’t come to investigate.  I also realized that I couldn’t move—at all.  It really is true that all of these thoughts can happen very quickly.  I don’t think it was as much as a minute between the time my head hit the concrete and I lost consciousness.

Where do you think the thoughts of the house went?  Right.  Gone.  I was worried—in this order—about moving ever again and about living. I didn’t have a single thought about the house and work was so far removed that it probably wasn’t even in my brain anywhere.  I came to after a while—don’t know how long it was, but my fingers were frost bitten.  I could move when I came to and I crawled to the house and woke up a kid to take me to the hospital.  My brain didn’t work right for a while, but I learned a huge lesson.

And The Lesson

There is switch in your brain that you can flip. You can change your perspective on what is important, how you’re approaching a problem, how you think about things.  You can do it instantly.  Obviously it was forced on me.  But after I thought about it for a while, I experimented with it.  I would try to “flip the switch” about how I was approaching a problem.  Or a person.

I had a problem with my boss.  I “flipped the switch” and decided to think of her as a customer—customer is always right, right?  Once I started doing that, she didn’t get to me as much.  I started “flipping the switch” to look at problems from the other person’s perspective.  When I did it with work problems, it created more energy—it helped get me “unstuck.”

Try it.  Let me know how it works for you.

1 Comment

Filed under Career Development, Executive Development, Reframe, Success

One response to “Flip the Switch

  1. Pingback: Personal Change Management | JoMcDermott

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