Galvin and Associates

Paying Attention to Red Flags in Life



When I was working outside in the yard with Kathe recently, she screamed and told me to come over to the side of the house. In between us was a rather large snake. I assumed it was a harmless Gartner snake, which are common in Illinois, and walked over to pick it up and move it to the weeds. A thought ran through my head, “Hey honey, watch this!”

First red flag: It was larger than any Gartner snake I had seen before. I thought: Oh well, it must be an older one.

Second red flag: It moved much more quickly than a Gartner snake. I thought: Oh well, it must be scared.

Third red flag: It was brown and yellow instead of green and yellow. I thought: Oh well, it’s close enough to be one.

When I walked up to the snake, it was in a corner between a brick wall and the foundation of the house. I quickly reached down to grab it near the back of the head. It sprung faster than I expected, so I grabbed it too low. With its head free, it turned around and bit my knuckle.

For a split second, I felt like the apostle Paul who got bit and had the snake hanging off his hand while on the island of Malta (Acts 28:3-5). I instinctively slung it backwards into the weeds and the snake let go. With a puzzled look on my face, I told Kathe that Gartner snakes usually don’t bite. I looked down at the 6 or 8 small holes on my right hand that were starting to bleed and went in to wash my hands. Then I immediately went online to look up “snakes of Northern Illinois.”

As it turns out, this was a Western Fox Snake. They are not poisonous. They feed on mice and vols. They are often mistaken for rattlesnakes. They have small needle-like teeth, so my hand is fine.

Western Fox Snake

But how did I miss all the red flags? Why do all of us tend to miss very clear red flags once in a while? In this case, I just wanted to solve the problem quickly and get back to yard work. I also wanted my wife to think I was cool. So I did not pay attention to the red flags that were clamoring for my attention.

Here are some ways to help you notice the red flags in your life.

1. Pay attention to what is actually in front of you. If you ever have a problem finding something in the refrigerator or a drawer, then you are not seeing what is actually there. You have an image in your mind of what you are looking for, but you are not seeing what is actually there.

2. Pay attention to what people are really saying. Have you ever had someone say to you, “No, that’s not what I said!”? Instead of listening to what we want to hear, we need to listen to what they are actually saying and to what they really mean.

3. Pay attention to what is changing in your environment. It is easy to continue doing the same things the same way and hope it works better next time. If that is not working, then what is changing? Something is changing! Figure it out.

4. Slow down before you act fast. Acting fast is good. Acting fast without looking for red flags first is bad.

5. Consider other possibilities. You think you know what the problem is. You know how to solve it. Before you take action, might something else be causing the problem? Are there other important variables you should be looking for? Has every other alternative been eliminated?

We see red flags in life every day. They are free. If we notice them, they only take a few moments to process, but the payoff can be huge. What will remind you to stop being so impulsive and to pay attention to the red flags in your life?

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