Catching Cockroaches

College. Good times. Especially the living condition off campus. 

Sophomore year found me in a house with 10 guys, 5 in the attic. I thought it was kind of cool. Mom hated it.

Senior year had more promise. So we thought.

Late one night I was deeply sleeping, when I felt a very slight movement on my neck, the jugular to be exact.  Still sleeping, I reached up in reaction, and the itch wiggled in my hand. Bam! I was awake. In a flash, I gripped and flung what I knew was a cockroach all the way across the room. Heebee Jeebies! Skin crawling!

And then it hit me. I threw the cockroach across my room, but it was still in my room. Not good. Go to sleep and hope? No way. I tore the room apart looking for him. I found it just as it slipped into the floor grate. It probably crawled into the darkness and safety of the grate, turned around and smiled. Waiting for me to go back to sleep.  Which I did. I made sure all the blankets were nowhere near touching the floor and prayed the roach couldn’t climb up the bedposts. They can. But thankfully not that night. Or…maybe I just didn’t...

The bigger problem was not the cockroach. Really the problem was my reaction. It was pure panic and instinct – with no real thinking. Gross as it sounds, I could have thought it through a little more. Maybe grab it and throw it in the toilet or outside. For sure this requires a little sacrifice since it would have to be carried to the destination.  Or maybe just crush the little sucker. Even grosser. But I just reacted and paid an additional price.

What are we reacting to? No real thought involved. Just reaction.  In Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits, Habit One challenges us to add “choice” between stimulus and response. Choice allows for thinking, choosing and empowering our next step.

The next time something shakes us. Stop. Think. And then choose the proper response. Reacting requires no thought, usually yielding poor results. Argue lately?  It’s almost all reacting.

Responding empowers us first and usually ends much better. Add consistency to response, and you’ll get habits. Good ones. 

By the way, the cockroach visited me a few days later. I was sitting on the couch, studying something I don’t remember.  I glanced down, and there he was on the arm. Just out for an evening walk. I didn’t panic. I chose. To get rid of him for good.