Some years ago, a coworker was lamenting the high cost of heating her small apartment in the winter.
She couldn’t understand how the neighbors in the next unit could afford to have the heat blasting with the windows open while she kept her thermostat in the 50s and wore several layers to keep costs in check.
She turned off the electric baseboard heaters in the living room and kitchen and huddled in her lone small bedroom with the door closed to contain the heat. Even with all that, she said, every month her bill came in around $250 for the past couple of years. It didn’t seem right. I agreed, and told her she should talk to her landlord about it.
Two months later, after insisting her landlord look into the reason for the excessive bill, she had her answer. Her power meter and her neighbors had been reversed, and each had been billed for the other’s usage. While she could seem to do nothing to lower her bill and kept electricity consumption to an uncomfortable minimum, her neighbors saw no increased cost from opening the windows and heating the neighborhood.
Instead of immediately following her intuition that something wasn’t right, she resigned herself to the high cost of home heating and looked for ways to cope by using less.
Lesson No. 2
When I moved into my house, the previous owner told me the master bedroom was always the warmest and coldest room. He wasn’t sure why, but to keep it comfortable he closed all the other vents in the house and ran the heat and air conditioning through just the master, allowing the temperate air to circulate to the rest of the home from there.
As the first cold fall mornings came, I saw what he was talking about. There was a 10- to 15-degree difference in temperature as soon as I opened the door from the hallway into the bedroom. Something’s wrong, I thought.
I suspected a problem with the attic insulation. But I couldn’t find an attic access for that part of the house. So I made one, and I found the problem: There was no insulation in the attic.
For 10 years, the homeowner (whom I know to be a very smart guy who knows his way around construction) resigned himself to working around the problem of maintaining the master bedroom temperature rather than following his instinct that something was amiss.
Listen to your inner voice
Like the frog sitting lazily in the slowly warming water, we grow accustomed to a bad situation and fail to react appropriately. Instead of pausing to consider the totality of the circumstances, we find a way to cope. We find a solution that works with the problem rather than solves it.
Intuition is powerful. Our initial reactions, while not always reliable, are an important diagnostic tool in many ways.
My two examples are surface-level instances, but they show how easy it is for us to rationalize daily inconvenience. Imagine how many far more complex things we rationalize and set about “fixing” without addressing the real issue.
Next time you notice something doesn’t seem right, don’t ask yourself, “What can I do about that?” Instead, ask, “Is that the way it should be?”
You may find a much better solution.