You are precisely as big as what you love and precisely as small as what you allow to annoy you.
Robert Anton Wilson, Nature’s God
What’s the one thing that annoys you more than anything else?
Is it being stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic? Bad weather? Assembling Ikea furniture?
We have the notion that certain things are annoying: a crying baby on an airplane, men leaving the toilet seat up, people shouting online by using all caps.
But is it more accurate to say that we allow ourselves to be annoyed?
Where is it encoded in our DNA that reading something in ALL CAPS TRIGGERS SOME DEEP PROGRAMMING IN OUR BRAINS THAT CAUSES AN INVOLUNTARY REACTION EQUIVALENT TO BEING VERBALLY THREATENED?
We have to be told that all caps equals shouting just as we have to be told that ROTFL equals “rolling on the floor laughing” rather than “returning often to Florida.”
I know that I’m setting myself up for being annoyed when I say any of these things:
“I shouldn’t have to put up with this.”
“This is harder than it should be.”
“I can’t take this anymore.”
It took me a while to learn that I choose whether to be annoyed.
Here are some strategies you can use to take control of your reaction to potentially annoying things.
Remember they are little things.
Is junk mail really ruining the quality of your life?
Did you have to walk five miles to get clean drinking water and then have to carry it back home? That could cause a little disruption in your schedule.
Maybe junk mail is not such a big problem.
Recognize you can’t change them.
“OK, Mr. Positivity. What about traffic jams?”
I agree. Traffic jams are real problems, and there are some things we need to do as a society to address the wasted time, the financial cost, and the damage to the environment.
But in the moment you are stuck in traffic, you are powerless to make the problem go away.
You can sit there and fume, or you can accept it as something you can’t change.
Maybe even repeat the Serenity Prayer.
Reframe the situation.
This is powerful.
It is the way we think about things that affect us rather than the things themselves.
Back to the junk mail.
Instead of getting upset that you have to touch a few extra pieces of paper, be grateful that these companies or politicians are subsidizing your mail service and keeping the cost of mailing a letter lower than it would be otherwise.
And, ladies, instead of being upset that some thoughtless man left the seat up on the toilet, be grateful that he was considerate enough to lift the seat.
Redirect your thoughts to positive things.
Some things annoy us because our minds are drawn to them.
The more we focus on them, the more they annoy us.
You can learn to control what takes up your brain cycles. It’s not easy, but neither is hitting a little white ball with a club and driving it into a small hole hundreds of feet away.
With a crying baby on a flight, you might need some help, maybe some noise-canceling headphones.
Remove them from your life.
If all the other strategies are not successful, you can always eliminate them.
Sometimes you can just avoid exposing yourself to these potentially annoying things.
Other times you may have to hire someone else to handle them for you.
At first, these strategies may seem simplistic and unrealistic.
But I think you will find, if you seriously apply them, that they are very powerful.
And I promise not to say, “I told you so.”
Because I know that can be annoying.
Now available at Amazon: The Courageous Heart: Wisdom for Difficult Times in paperback and eBook.