Of the seven billion people who live on our planet, there are at least one billion (conservative estimate) who have the capacity to annoy me very easily. So here’s a question: do I a) spend my energy trying to change their behaviour in order to reduce the chance of annoyance; or b) find a way of just not getting annoyed?
It is better to address our own behaviour and reactions to situations than attempt to change other people. In the last few weeks I have spoken with a number of clients who have all had one thing in common: negative reactions to their environment. Frustration, irritation and annoyance with the people with whom they have to interact. When this happens, it’s easy to lay the blame at the door of a stranger, a colleague or a family member; or to attribute our mood to a particular set of circumstances. But doing so overlooks the source of our solution: our self.
We are responsible for our own moods. Of course there are triggers, but there are also choices about how to react to those triggers.
It’s easy to get annoyed. For those of us who are used to it, there’s a comfort to be gleaned from occupying such a familiar state. We like to get annoyed. We feel powerful when we’re annoyed. Energetic. Self-righteous. Justified. But that is just a short-term fix of feelings and emotions. It doesn’t help in the long-term. I used to argue with the evangelists in town centres on Saturday mornings. I did it in England and I did it in Germany. But all I came away with each time was an anecdote and more frustration. There was no way I was going to convince them, and no way they were going to convince me.
Eventually, I just stopped. Now I remain mostly silent on the subject because it serves me better to do so. I prefer me that way. And therein lies the key to this post. Choose the ‘you‘ you prefer and be it. It takes practice because you are likely forming some new habits and breaking old ones. But once you have decided who you want to be, get on with it. It’s not easy, but it’s a much better use of our time and energy to work on ourselves, than to try and change a billion other variables.
That is not to say we should give up on what we believe in. We can still carry with us an intention to change the world. But we should start with ourselves and lead by example.