Everything that could go wrong

Over the course of the past two weeks, I have had to check my attitude.  I have been short tempered with other drivers and pedestrians, quickly irritated when technology doesn’t work and grumpy in general.

When I don’t like how I feel, I reflect on how to modify my behavior or environment to improve my mood.  I recently attended a continuing education class that discussed ethical complaints made about Iowa lawyers.  Part of the presentation addressed various stressors that are part being an attorney. 

My personality benefits my practice in many ways – I like challenges, resolving conflicts, and problem solving.  One reason I have good results with my cases is that I continually consider what could go wrong.  I look at the outcome desired by the client and create a backward flow chart to address the obstacles in the way of achieving the client’s goal.

In my personal life, I also consider what could go wrong.  Are we going to get to the tailgate, but forget the football tickets?  Do I have my toothbrush and medication packed for vacation?  Is there someone who is going to feed the dog while we are gone? I have done this for as long as I can remember in order to keep my stress level low.

There are a few problems with contemplating what could go wrong.  The first is it can carry over into very insignificant decisions of my life.  The more stressed I get, the more I analyze my decisions.  I can tell my stress level is off the charts when I talk myself in and out of basic decisions like where to eat for lunch (when it is just me) and where to park my car.

Another problem with contemplating what “could” go wrong” is I miss when things go right.  For the most part, 95-100% of my days go right, i.e. as expected.  Similarly, my cases have had predictable outcomes 95-100% of the time.   That is something to celebrate.   

Finally, when I consider what “could” go wrong, I take a pessimistic attitude toward life in general.  I am optimistic for others but anticipate the worst for myself.

The first step to self-care is awareness.  If I can be intentional with my thoughts when planning for things that can go wrong, I can designate a start and stop time for negative-based thoughts.  Without awareness, it is very easy to have an attitude that something can go wrong with everything.  This is not a satisfying way to live a life.