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Why We Do What We Do: The Irony of Our Daily and Business Habits

Updated: Jan 19

In our daily lives, we often follow routines without giving them much thought, failing to recognize the ironies that surround us. From our morning rituals to the way we approach our work, there's a hidden layer of paradoxes that can reveal much about our mindset.

In the dynamic world of leadership and management, paradoxes are ever-present. From meeting cultures to innovation, the choices leaders make often unveil a deeper mindset filled with contradictions. This article highlights the 7 most striking paradoxical choices in the business world. But first, a personal anecdote.

Driving 3 Minutes to the Gym to Hop on a Bicycle

A few years ago, I was a regular at the local gym. Nowadays, I exercise in my own backyard gym, but back then, I was a frequent visitor to that neighborhood gym just a ten-minute walk from my home. My favorite way to warm up was the stair-climbing machine, strategically placed next to the cycling machines. Like clockwork, I was there three times a week at precisely 07:00 a.m.


During one of those early sessions, I noticed Leo, who warmed up almost simultaneously with me, but on the bike. As the weeks went by and we trained side by side more often, we started chatting. I learned that Leo lived just ten minutes further and was the proud owner of a beautiful Volvo. He had a passion for cars that was rare to find.

What truly surprised me was when I found out that Leo worked from home and yet drove his car to the gym every time. I couldn't resist and jokingly asked, "So you drive your car to the gym, only to warm up on a cycling machine?"


The Irony of Our Modern Lifestyle

In a world where technology and comfort are paramount, we often encounter paradoxical situations that force us to reflect on our mindset. A classic example is Leo driving to the gym to then cycle. At first glance, this might seem contradictory, but it also offers insight into how we approach life.


The Car: A Symbol of Convenience

Once a sign of prosperity and luxury, the car has evolved over the years into an almost indispensable part of our daily lives. The speed and convenience with which we can move have drastically changed our perception of distances and travel time.


The Mindset of Speed and Efficiency: With a car, we can travel from one place to another quickly and efficiently, leaving more time for other activities. However, this mindset has a downside. We've become so accustomed to the car's convenience that we sometimes forget there might be other, perhaps healthier, ways to move.


Short Distances: It's not uncommon for people to use the car for very short distances, even when the weather is good and the distance could easily be covered on foot or by bike. This behavior directly reflects our comfort zone and the mindset of convenience deeply rooted in our culture.


The Gym: A Sanctuary for Health and Fitness

For many, the gym is a sanctuary of health and wellness. It's a place we go to work on our physical fitness, to become healthier, and to feel better about ourselves.


The Irony of the Journey: While the gym stands for effort and health, the journey to it often contradicts these principles. By driving to the gym, we choose convenience over effort, even before our workout begins.


A Missed Opportunity: By opting for the car, we miss an opportunity to get our daily dose of exercise. A short walk or bike ride to the gym can serve as a warm-up for the actual workout. Moreover, it offers a chance to get fresh air and enjoy the outdoors.


The Contradictions in Our Behavior: Understanding Why We Do What We Do

One reason for Leo's choice is that we sometimes make a clear distinction in our minds between daily activities and 'exercise'. This can lead us to see the journey to the gym as a necessary task, while the activity at the gym is viewed as the actual exercise.

Routines also play a crucial role in our lives. They provide structure and predictability. For many, driving to the gym has simply become part of their routine, without giving it much thought.


Humans are creatures of habit. Once we establish a routine, it can be hard to break, even when we realize more efficient or healthier options are available. How many of our daily choices are genuinely conscious, and how many are done on autopilot?


7 Illogical Choices by Leaders and Employees

In the business world, especially in leadership roles, there are numerous situations where individuals' mindsets can seem contradictory or paradoxical. Here are some examples:


  • Meeting Culture: Face-to-Face vs. Digital

In an era where technology allows remote work and meetings, many managers and leaders still opt for unnecessary physical meetings. This is despite the availability of efficient digital tools. Just as Leo drives to the gym to cycle, some leaders travel across cities or even countries for a meeting that could have been just as effective online.


  • Overworking: Productivity vs. Burnout

Many leaders believe that long hours equate to dedication and productivity. They promote a culture of overworking, assuming it leads to better results. However, numerous studies have shown that overworking often results in decreased productivity, burnout, and health issues. Ironically, the attempt to do 'more' often results in 'less' effective output.


  • Micromanagement: Control vs. Trust

Some managers, thinking they are leaders, believe micromanagement is the key to success, thinking that by controlling every detail, they'll achieve the best results. This mindset can be counterproductive. Not giving employees the freedom and trust to perform their tasks independently can limit their motivation and creativity. Just like the paradoxical behavior of driving to the gym to cycle, the desire for control can lead to less control and suboptimal results.


  • The Illusion of Multitasking

In the business world, multitasking is often seen as a valuable skill. Leaders who can handle multiple tasks simultaneously are often praised for their efficiency. However, research shows that multitasking can lead to decreased focus and lower-quality work. Thus, the pursuit of performing multiple tasks simultaneously can be counterproductive.


  • Open Door Policy vs. Inaccessibility

Many leaders claim to have an "open door policy," suggesting that employees can approach them with questions or concerns at any time. However, in reality, these leaders are often so busy with meetings and other commitments that they are hard to reach. The intention of openness contrasts with actual availability.


  • Encouraging Innovation vs. Avoiding Risks

Leaders often say they value and encourage innovation. Yet, the same companies can be very risk-averse, leading to the rejection of new and out-of-the-box ideas. This creates a contradictory environment where employees are encouraged to be creative but are simultaneously limited by strict guidelines and expectations. Any form of disruption is missing.


  • Emphasizing Teamwork vs. Rewarding Individual Performance

While many organizations emphasize the importance of teamwork and promote the value of collaboration, they often base bonuses and promotions on individual performance. This can send mixed signals, making employees wonder if they should collaborate or excel individually to gain recognition.


Conclusion:

In the complexity of our daily lives and work, we can face choices that, upon closer inspection, seem paradoxical or even contradictory. Whether it's Leo's decision to drive to the gym or the contradictory behaviors we observe or engage in the business world, these choices are deeply rooted in our mindset.


This mindset, shaped by years of habits, cultural norms, and personal beliefs, not only influences our daily decisions but also how we approach and practice leadership. It's a powerful lens through which we view and respond to the world.


Recognizing and understanding these paradoxes is the first step toward change. By becoming aware of the contradictions in our behavior, we can start rethinking our choices and make adjustments if necessary. In the context of leadership, this means creating an environment where self-reflection is encouraged, where openness and honesty are valued, and where leaders and teams collaborate to make better, more coherent decisions.

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