When we evaluate the little things that make our day a little less perfect, we usually turn to external factors like someone else’s tardiness. Or traffic. Or how long it takes for your food to order at your favorite restaurant.
In reality, these things exist by themselves. Traffic is always going to be there and what’s really annoying you isn’t the traffic itself but how it’s affecting you.
Specifically, how it’s affecting your perception of time. This is more true of someone’s tardiness. You expect them to be on time and when they aren’t, you get incredibly annoyed.
This psychological tendency is readily explained by Epictetus who said: “People are not disturbed, but by the views they take of them.”
Traffic is a universal element. It’s always going to exist, even if we don’t want it to.
So it’s still puzzling why people get pissed off at traffic even though they have been traveling the same road for years and years on end.
You know you’re bound to get in stuck in traffic so why are you spending so much energy getting annoyed by it?
A lot of this frustration lies in our inherent mindset.
A psychologist named Albert Ellis summed up the top four mindsets we have that can inhibit the way we interact with the world.
He says what we think of the world causes a huge part of the unhappiness and disdain we feel on a daily basis. It’s problematic because these thoughts aren’t conscious. They lurk within our minds and affect our consciousness.
Don’t know what they are? Well, this article is about pointing them out:
1) “I’m like this because of my past”
Yes, you have been wronged in the past. Yes, you have been under some sort of traumatic incident but that doesn’t mean it should define who you become in the future.
Let’s say you were bullied when you were 12 years old, had no friends, and were made to feel completely useless.
A lot of people tend to use this event in their life as a loop to continue their current trajectory.
The only problem is, you’re not 12 anymore. You’re in your 20s, 30s, 40s, or even 50s as an adult who should be able to recognize the role of agency in his or her life.
Past problems should be exactly what they are: left in the past. There’s no wrong in acknowledging it but living by it, shaping your life around it is the least progressive way of dealing with these things.
2) “Perfection is Key”
This isn’t exactly a subtle mindset since a lot of people like to declare that they are perfectionists in one way or another.
The sneaky part about this mindset, though, is that we expect that we are perfect. Sure, we make mistakes and we acknowledge that we aren’t perfect. Or at least, that’s what we like to say.
When things get awry, we tend to get disappointed in ourselves and create a big fuss over what should have beens and could have beens.
If we truly, deeply realized that perfection shouldn’t be our guiding light in everything we do, our approach in life wouldn’t be so tense all the time.
3) “Anxiety Eases The Journey”
Worrying about things is fine, and we’re pretty open about that too. But there comes a time when worrying becomes a drug, so much so that we can’t help but be anxious about a possibly insignificant event in our lives.
It’s hard to catch ourselves and will our minds to stop worrying. Ellis believes that worrying is an odd habit that encourages people to keep thinking because it subconsciously makes us feel better.
We think that by obsessively dreading an event or a responsibility, we are preparing ourselves for the better.
By replaying the same upsetting scenario in our heads, we are getting our minds acquainted with the stress.
Instead of spending 24 hours worrying, why not allocate 30 to 45 minutes to do nothing but worry?
This study acknowledges that moderated anxiety can actually be a healthy way of releasing stress.
As a solution, the experts are suggesting that people should schedule their worrying. This way, they can let off some steam without expending a lot of time and energy on it.
(To learn more about techniques to reduce anxiety and live in the moment, check out Hack Spirit’s best-selling eBook on how to use Buddhist teachings and eastern philosophy for a mindful and happy life here)
4) “This Shouldn’t Happen”
The traffic scenario is perhaps best explained by this mindset. Although we recognize that traffic is a part of our lives and will inevitably add a couple of hours to our daily travel, we still get pissed when it does happen.
The reason? Because a little voice in our heads tell us that this shouldn’t be happening to us.
Whenever something inconvenient comes our way, our reaction is to be pissed. The inconvenience is rooted in our subtle belief that these interruptions shouldn’t happen to us.
We could acknowledge that the world isn’t a fair place but we can’t help but hope that the world would be fair to us.
That’s not to say you should settle on what life throws at you. By all means, do what you can to improve your situation. The point is to know the difference between a circumstance and just plain coincidence so that you may pick your battles accordingly.
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