I’ve been at my job for a little over a year now, which means I’ve gone through the entire cycle once. I know what each part of the year, each major annual event, and each special service is like. Now that every single thing doesn’t seem so new and anxiety-inducing, I’m finally starting to feel like I can be proactive, get ahead, and excel at my work. This leaves me with a nice sense of confidence, accomplishment, and ultimately fulfillment.
But then, just as I’m getting into my groove, a hiccup comes along. Some small glitch sneaks into the system and throws everything off. Maybe I have to use a piece of software that I’m not familiar with. Or some lingering issue comes up that that I haven’t been able to solve for months. Or a new problem, something I’ve never encountered before, rears its ugly head. These hiccups come in all shapes and sizes, and they have a tendency to shake me to my core.
They don’t just occur at work, though. They happen everywhere. In my personal projects. My relationships. My schedule. Even my health. Just when it feels like everything’s going along smoothly, I hit a bump in the road. It happens without fail.
We refer to these types of issues as “hiccups” because they’re a lot like the hiccups we experience physiologically. They’re short, small, and seemingly benign. On their own, they aren’t too much cause for concern. But they’re also persistent, and they have the ability to build up and wear on us in a way that can be downright debilitating, not to mention frustrating and disheartening. Hiccups are small but powerful, and they can really bring us down if we allow them to.
And so I’m learning in this phase of my life to deal with hiccups in healthy ways. Maybe you are, too. If you’re like me and hate running into these types of problems, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Hiccups aren’t always your fault.
My first instinct when an issue like this arises is to blame myself. I think about the steps I took to get to this point and the things I could (read: should) have done to avoid it. I berate myself, doubt myself, and beat myself up to the point that this little hiccup becomes all I can think about. But here’s the thing: It usually isn’t even my fault.
We can’t help everything that happens to us. And as much as we like to think they are, our lives aren’t perfect. Hiccups are inevitably going to occur even if we do everything right. So immediately playing the blame game every single time probably isn’t the best approach.
And even if it is your fault, that’s OK. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes, and those mistakes have consequences. Suffering those consequences is unpleasant, but beating ourselves up for it doesn’t help. It only makes things worse. No matter whose fault it is, we’re better off not even bothering with blame when problems occur.
Because no matter whose fault it is, the problem is there, and it has to be dealt with. Wouldn’t we be better off using our energy to solve the problem rather than getting stuck in our heads beating ourselves up? The only way to compensate for a mistake—whether it’s your own or someone else’s—is to fix it.
So that’s what I’m trying to practice when these hiccups come up. I’m fighting my instinct to blame myself and rather choosing to focus on a solution. There’s always time after the fact to analyze the situation and use it as a learning opportunity. But in the moment, I’m much better off dealing with the issue at hand, and no matter what, I’m going to feel better once everything’s back on track anyway.
Hiccups don’t undermine your previous successes.
Hiccups have a tendency to disrupt my flow. I’m feeling secure, watching everything chug along as it should, and then all of a sudden, it all comes to a screeching halt. When this happens, it breaks my sense of security and seemingly taints all of the good stuff that came before it. Rather than remembering the 99 things that went right, all I can think about is the one thing that went wrong. This is negativity bias, human nature’s tendency to focus on the bad things that happen to us. And in cases like these, it’s nothing more than a lie.
We are pretty terrible at giving ourselves credit where credit is due. Every day, we’re winning small victories that we don’t even perceive. When you complete that minuscule, daily task for the millionth time, you don’t pat yourself on the back. But maybe you should. Especially in the midst of disruptions and mistakes, it’s important to remember that most of the time, we’re doing pretty well.
Imagine what would happen at your home or your job if you just stopped contributing. If, like a light switch, your input completely turned off. Sure, everyone else would probably get by, but how much harder would it be for them? Even if you just skipped out on one simple thing, someone else would have to do it, which means they wouldn’t be able to accomplish their own tasks, and the whole system would be thrown out of whack.
Here’s my point: Your contribution matters. Your successes, as small as they may seem to you, are important. And they aren’t cancelled out by one error every once in a while. On the whole, you’re putting more into your family, work, church, or whatever else it is you contribute to than you’re taking, and that’s something worth celebrating. So give yourself a little credit.
I’m the worst at this, but I’m getting better. Whenever I mess up, I try to remember the dozen times that same day that I did something right. When something I’ve done causes an inconvenience for others, I try to remember all the times I’ve made life easier for them. One hiccup doesn’t undo all of the positive things I’ve done, and I’m trying to keep that in mind.
Hiccups don’t define your future.
This one’s the real kicker. Once I’ve stumbled, I get scared. I lose confidence in myself and give up on the idea that I can be successful going forward. Every move becomes a struggle because I’m afraid I’ll do something wrong again, and then everyone will really know what a failure I am. I let myself believe that the issue at hand is a precedent for everything to come after it. And that can be really discouraging.
It’s far too easy for us to become disheartened the second our plans get messed up. We think that if everything can’t be perfect, there’s no point in trying at all. And if one part of what we’re doing is flawed, then we should probably give up on the whole thing. But that simply isn’t the case.
Hiccups are an opportunity for course correction. They’re small problems that put us on our toes and force us to reconsider things before any big problems arise. Yes, they let us know that something is wrong, but they don’t ruin everything. They don’t undermine all the work we’ve done and success we’ve achieved. They don’t have to be the final word.
Really, what it comes down to is seeing hiccups for what they are: small issues that keep us humble but don’t have to defeat us. They remind us that we aren’t perfect and keep us from becoming complacent. They push us to be more creative, more diligent, and more committed to excellence. Sure, they’re disruptive, but don’t we need a little disruption from time to time?
If you think about it, these interruptions are actually a blessing in disguise. So there’s no need to dread them or freak out when they come up. With the right approach, we can overcome these issues and ultimately come out better for them. Hiccups are annoying, but they make us better, and I for one am committed to embracing them rather than resisting them going forward. If you’re struggling to get past the hiccups in life, I’d encourage you to try doing the same.