For years, I’ve worked out with the same trainer, Mike, to do high-intensity weight training.
Ever since I worked on Better Than Before, my book about habit formation, I’ve continued to be fascinated by how people make and break habits. I often talk to Mike about people’s habits, because he has a great insight into patterns in people’s behavior.
Once he told me something that really surprised me. He said, “Over the years, I’ve learned that almost always, the same people are late, the same people are early, and the same people are right on time.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Some people are consistently late. They explain that the traffic was heavy, or the weather was bad, or something came up, and they’re very often late. But when I say, ‘Hey, when you’re late, it’s a problem for the people who have appointments after you, so please try to be on time,’ they say, ‘I’m never late, unless something comes up that I can’t control.”
“Well, maybe that’s true,” I said.
“You might think so,” he answered, “but with the same traffic, and the same weather, another group of people is always early, and another group is always right on time. And they’re dealing with those conditions, and those little things that come up.”
Circumstances change, yet the same people are late, and the same people are on time. The often-late people thought that circumstances were outside of their control, but other people found it possible to deal with those conditions.
This story made a big impression on me. Are there areas in my own life, I ask myself, where I tell myself that I’m just reacting to circumstances, when in fact, I might find ways to try to control outcomes better? It’s something to think about.