Back to Blog

Are you always running late? Here’s why the unhelpful habit has a deeper level and what you can do about it today

accountability habits Dec 12, 2021

When was the last time you were late for a business appointment, social event or anything that required you to be somewhere or do something at a specific time?

Being late the odd time is not unusual. Unexpected events such as traffic jams, accidents or simply losing track of time happen. Sometimes. On occasion. So, why then, are some people perpetually late? Why is it that many people are always at least five or ten minutes late wherever they go?

This blog will unwrap some of the underlying reasons as to why people are late, the excuses made, and ways to change the unhelpful habit


The unhelpful cycle of forever running late

Constantly being late for appointments with colleagues, clients or suppliers, maybe social gatherings with friends and family, or even when taking your children to school, parties and after-school clubs is not a coincidence. It’s a behavioural habit that has formed over time, often during childhood, and is a deeply ingrained unconscious belief.

Beliefs around not feeling worthy or belonging, not being good or capable enough, and not having the capacity are subconscious. You probably won’t even realise you have them but being late is a typical example of these beliefs playing out daily.

Where do these unconscious beliefs begin?

It could be that one of your parents was always late when you were a young child and therefore you deemed this simply to be how things should be. Maybe your parents were super busy and never had time to take you anywhere, therefore, running late was a regular occurrence because something else was always more important. Over time, these incidents and the thoughts, feelings and emotions linked to them stick.


Unhelpful behaviours and what they might look like

If you suffer from perpetual lateness, you may also find yourself fabricating stories to justify why you are late. The traffic was horrendous, temporary lights held you up, your children wouldn’t get ready, you couldn’t get off the phone – the list goes on.

Blaming other people is often a behaviour associated with being late. It was your child’s fault, your last client wouldn’t stop talking, the dog ate your notes, your partner hadn’t ironed your shirt, a pandemic struck, the prime minister said something you didn’t like – again, the list goes on.

You might even make a joke about being late, commenting that you’re always an average of ten minutes late to pacify and rationalise the situation with others, justifying it to yourself at the same time.

Sometimes, people who are always early are considered smug, sitting on their high horse, somehow better and therefore judging of you rocking up late. Have you ever thought that consistently early people might believe that you are being passive-aggressive by making them wait and that you don’t value their time? Everyone falls into the trap of making assumptions or having opinions that are not necessarily the truth. 

You are at ‘cause’ and not ‘effect’ when this happens - sitting in the passenger’s seat giving control to others, whereas you should be in the driver’s seat operating at ‘effect’.

Can you see how running late, the characteristic behaviours and the underlying beliefs can be an eternal cycle? Unless you break the cycle that it.


Breaking the unconscious habit

Being consistently late is a sign of having one (or more) of the beliefs mentioned above. You use compensating tendencies to divert the attention away from being late, rationalising that it’s not your fault.

It is your fault.

It’s your fault because you have a choice.

Now, you might be thinking: “But Cassie, why would I choose to be late? That’s ridiculous. I’d much rather be early. I can’t help the traffic?” Let me explain. You may not think you are choosing because the action is happening on an unconscious level. Being late is an almost automated response that is deeply entrenched in your unconsciousness, and it just happens. It’s like absorbing the process of ‘mirror, signal, manoeuvre’ when learning to drive. Eventually, the action becomes a habit because you do it so often and know it so well that it transfers from conscious to sub-conscious. The exact process has evolved with someone who is consistently late. It’s become a habit and your unconscious mind has chosen the path of least resistance.


Take ownership and be responsible for your actions

Think about that last sentence for a minute - ‘the path of least resistance’. Being early for an engagement would take forward-thinking and possibly changes in your routine - certainly for the first few times until new habits replace old ones. It might seem like a struggle and hard work, but perseverance will always prevail. Making changes will feel uncomfortable because you choose the path with the most resistance, not the least.

Taking ownership and responsibility for your actions instead of making excuses and blaming others will be hard at first because you are consciously taking more control and that takes more effort. Sometimes things are put off, avoiding change because it’s difficult to shift focus or step things up a notch. It’s OK to feel this kind of pressure. It’s essential to lean into the tension to maintain the momentum that enables you to reach a more positive outcome.

Change must be a conscious decision. Recognising unhelpful behaviours and compensating tendencies are the first step to making changes for the better. You need to see the way you are being before change can happen.

Progression will feel like a challenge. The best way to change is to focus on the end outcome and how much better you will feel seeing the progress made.


Accountability coaching

Accountability coaching is a process I use with a lot of my clients who show up with the compensating tendencies and underlying beliefs mentioned in this article. The coaching method involves putting rules in place to be held accountable for achieving what you set out to achieve. No excuses, no rationalisation and no blame.

Being held accountable helps you spot self-sabotaging behaviours and understand the importance of making changes that build new habits and maintain the momentum to achieve what you truly desire.

If the context of this article resonates in any way and you are intrigued about accountability coaching, or alternative ways to reframe underlying beliefs and make conscious change for the better, please reach out to me for an initial chat.

 Contact me for a discovery call today.