A new tune: Quick-thinking habits

Mistakes are great teachers of many of life’s best lessons. The Miss Wisconsin Pre-Teen Pageant taught me the value of quick-thinking habits.

This honorable event required a talent, so I chose a flute solo, playing “The Entertainer” by Scott Joplin. Weeks were spent with my music instructor learning new techniques on my instrument.

By the time the pageant weekend arrived, I knew the music well with only two challenging transitions. With a bit of last-minute practice, I was confident that I could perform the song accurately and up to speed.

Upon arriving at the Marc Plaza in Milwaukee, I quickly unpacked to squeeze in another practice. That is when the horror began. My sheet music was nowhere to be found. I sorted through clothes and papers and could not locate this important document anywhere.

In 1985 the internet was not in my back pocket or on a computer in the hotel’s business center, so I could not download another copy of the music. My mom offered to find a local music store; however, there was no time for that. It was time to test my memory and my ability to improvise.

How could this happen? How could I overlook the second most crucial resource of the weekend? (I guess it could have been worse. I could have forgotten my flute.)

Even though I learned this harsh lesson decades ago, unfortunately, I have made this mistake numerous times through the years.

I left my doggie bag on the table of my favorite restaurant. I forgot to rinse the shampoo out of my hair before getting out of the shower. I even forgot my running shoes for my senior year gym class final, where I knew we would need to run “the mile.”

I know that I am not the only person who has suffered from this hard lesson. A friend forgot his passport, only to realize this missing document at O’Hare Airport while checking in for his flight to Sweden. Another friend forgot her computer on the flight that she deboarded two hours prior.

I do not need a scientist to research why this happens. I know why it happens. Ed Mylett said it best in a podcast episode, “I was never where I was.” So true.

While packing for my pageant, my mind was not focused on what I needed to add to my luggage. Instead, I was thinking about the interview questions I might be asked or how it would feel to win the competition.

To conquer the challenge of my mind wandering or thinking too deeply, I have learned to practice quick thinking habits. Quick-thinking is what we need to do at the moment to be present, productive and responsible. Quick-thinking looks like this:

• Stopping before leaving a room, turning around to see what else you might need to take with you. This practice would have allowed me to see the doggie bag sitting on the restaurant table.

• Asking a friend to quiz you before leaving on an important trip. Have you packed essential items like your wallet, driver’s license, sunglasses, sheet music, flute? Some of the things your friend will list might seem silly or obvious but often are forgotten.

• Taking an extra minute before leaving the house to think through your agenda until you return home again. Do you have everything for your entire day?

Creating a quick-thinking habit will save you time, money, pain and stress. If I were not in such deep thought during my morning routine, I would not have had to take two showers to complete the process. If I had remembered my running shoes for the gym final, I would not have had to run barefoot and nurse my feet for the next week. If I had allowed my mom to quiz me before leaving for the pageant, I could have spent my practice time more productively rather than cramming my memory for the right notes.

Our lives are fast-paced and hectic, but that does not mean our minds need to be. Commit to conquer this challenge. By creating new quick-thinking habits, we can keep up with our quick pace and not waste life’s precious resources.