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All About You: Reducing inconveniences

All About You by Richard Hawk

EDITOR’S NOTE: Motivating employees to work safely is part of the safety professional’s job. But who motivates the motivator? In this monthly column, veteran safety pro and professional speaker Richard Hawk offers his entertaining brand of wisdom to inspire safety pros to perform at their best.

Three types of events can cause emotional pain: tragedy, setbacks and inconveniences.

The first type, tragedy, is the worst. That’s when something happens that changes our life permanently and causes grief. Often it involves the loss of a loved one. My mother-in-law, whom my wife and I loved dearly, died four years ago. We still feel sad about it.

Setbacks are the second category of events that can stir up distress. A divorce, a house fire … these are examples of setbacks. Many of us safety professionals have seen firsthand how an incident can cause a setback such as loss of mobility or a serious injury. Although they change your circumstances, setbacks aren’t as severe as tragedies.

Getting upset to varying degrees when tragedy or setbacks occur is a natural reaction.

Last, we have inconveniences. They’re those little things that bother us: Someone who is always late, waiting in line, a friend who talks behind your back, losing your keys, your computer locking up, etc.

Researchers studying stress used to believe tragedy and setbacks caused most of the stress in our lives. Now, evidence indicates that isn’t true, and that if you were able to add up the anger, anxiety, frustration and other negative emotions that events have caused throughout your life, inconveniences would surpass tragedy and setbacks by a wide margin.

If they didn’t cause so much damage to our physical and mental well-being, it would be amusing to consider how upset we sometimes get over “the little things.” Here are two tactics that help me reduce and react better to inconveniences.

Fix them when you can

Waiting at my dentist’s office used to be a problem for me until I asked the receptionist about the best times to schedule an appointment so I wouldn’t have to wait. She was surprised at the question, but she gave me a helpful answer. Now when I schedule my appointments, I ask for the first appointment of the day or one that’s an early afternoon on Friday. Problem solved.

It’s surprising sometimes how easy it is to eliminate inconveniences. It just takes a little effort and some problem-solving. Whether it’s putting up a hook for your keys or leaving earlier for appointments, many of our nuisances go away once we take the time to do something about them.

Why not make a list of the things that bug you and see if you can come up with solutions for some of them? Of course, some inconveniences will be beyond your control or will pop up by surprise. That’s when I try a little magic.

Say these two magic words

Yes, even though I’m a logic-loving safety and health professional, I believe in magic words! My favorite magic words are not “abracadabra” or “hocus pocus” – they’re “so what!” When something starts to bother me, especially when I’m traveling, I remind myself that this is not that important, it will pass and that it is simply a “so what!” moment. In other words, what’s happening to me is not worth getting upset about.

Thinking this way and saying “so what!” to my inconveniences works like magic and always helps me stay calm.

Along the same line, I remind myself regularly how fortunate I am to even have access to a grocery store, dentist, airport, automobile and so many other things that millions of people don’t have. Years ago, Fatima, a fellow safety professional from Somalia, attended one of my public seminars on stress. During lunch I asked her to tell me some things related to stress that she had observed during her visit to the United States. She told me that she was surprised by how upset people get while waiting in line at the grocery store. She said, “It would be like waiting in paradise to many of the people in my country.”

That thought has stayed with me. Sure, I still try to go shopping during times when there won’t be any lines. But when I do have to wait, I recall that it’s just an inconvenience and say “so what” – while I continue to wait in paradise.

This article represents the views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

Richard Hawk helps companies around the world create more vibrant safety cultures by showing them how to make safety fun. As a professional speaker, author and musician, he also inspires employees to focus better and enlightens safety leaders about ways to increase their influence. To learn more about Richard, visit


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