Today Karaj, Kuldip and I drove to Edingburgh. Karaj asked me to navigate and I immediately felt the onset of a familiar reaction: I doubt my ability to do a job (perfectly) and get flustered because I think I’ll be letting myself and others down.
What I usually do when that happens is say something which makes it clear (or worse, merely hints) that I may not be up to the job. When I do this I think I am doing everyone a favour: I am covering myself in case I make a mistake and I am giving people a chance to change their mind about entrusting the task to me, whilst at the same time warning them it might go wrong.
I see this now for what it is. It’s highly self-defeating and doesn’t achieve any of the things I think it does. Firstly, it reinforces to myself my own incompetence – which doesn’t even exist to start with! – and immediately creates an air of negativity around myself and everyone else. Secondly, it gives others an impression which is not only untrue but one which they are not allowed to form themselves.
Thirdly, it also puts them on edge because they then expect things to go wrong. This adds force to the negativity I have created and also undermines any calmness which may have been present before my comments. Everybody is now expecting failure which makes it more likely to occur. A self-fulfilling prophecy.
So, I agreed to navigate, told myself I could do it and tried to keep calm. On a couple of occasions I became flustered – by a one-way system in Edinburgh and some confusion on the way out of the city – but I took a few deep breaths and, in the end, things worked out wonderfully. My navigation was excellent.
It was important to be clear with my instructions and not give strength to any doubts by displaying panic or imagined incompetence. Also, I found that during the times of mild panic, the best thing to do was to relax because, in truth, everything was okay and we were in fact on the right road, going in the right direction.
Life lesson: Relax, because I am on the right road, going in the right direction. I will reach my destination. After all, I’m navigating.