Being on Time
My friends know I‘m notoriously late. I think this started once I began driving myself, and became responsible for departure times. In any case, it has turned into a running joke across multiple friend groups, and started to bother me. I don‘t tend to view myself and someone who is always late. Germans are stereotypically extremely punctual, and that is something I would usually say I value as well.
Yet, numerous, unconnected, outside sources all were verifying the same thing: I am not punctual for social gatherings. When I realized this, I figured there are two likely reasons. Either the outside sources all have it wrong, or I am not living in alignment with the high value I place on punctuality.
When things like this come up, it‘s always easy to not take responsibility and say that it must be the first option. However that is often simply false, especially when the feedback you are getting is coming from some of your closest friends. With that in mind, it‘s probably time to reassess and change your values to align with your reality or to change your reality to match your values. For example, I used to proudly call myself a vegan, but have recently stopped, despite not changing how I eat at all. I probably eat 95% vegan, but the few times I would eat a special meal when traveling or in an otherwise non-routine situation, many would get upset and say I was a „fake vegan“. Ultimately labels exist primarily to help others understand us, and when they cease to aid in that pursuit it can be time to get rid of them.
In the original example, I decided it was time to figure out a way to get myself to be on time. So, I created accountability partners to hold me to a rule I created. If I am more than 5 minutes past an agreed upon meeting time, I have to donate money to charity for each person who I kept waiting (they choose the charity). There is even a sliding scale where if I am even later I pay more, and so on, but the point is just to find a consequence that hurts me mildly (as a college student every payment, even small ones to good causes, add a noticeable financial burden).
Rules such as these shouldn‘t be designed to be defeating, such that if you fail once you will stop the whole thing, but rather to provide just enough motivation to get you moving in the right direction. In that way you can use them to create a little more peace and harmony in your life by actually living by your values. No one is perfect, but with self-correcting systems like these we might all be able to become a little better.
Photo is of Antony Gormley’s Infinite Cube which was on exhibit at the Smart Museum of Art last Spring. It is made of mirrored glass with an internal copper wire matrix of 1,000 hand-soldered omnidirectional LED lights.