What Progress Have You Made?

Ok, so it’s less than six months until Christmas, which means that half of 2015 is now in our rear view mirror. What have you been up to? What sort of life road marks have you passed? As a kid, I never believed it when my parents would tell me that the older you get, the faster time flies, but they were right. I am flabbergasted by the remarkable speed with which this year is hurtling onward, so today’s post is as good as any for us to check in on the progress we’re making.

How are you doing?

In the last six months, people I know have struggled with everything ranging from the aftermath of suicide to receiving disturbing medical diagnoses, they’ve been promoted at work, or reached out to estranged relatives, some have taken steps to master their bad tempers, others have found a way to bolster their self-confidence. (I even managed to publish a book!) Soup to nuts. All part of the resplendent buffet that is our lives.

Each of the examples I listed demonstrates a variation on the re-booting theme. The reason I say this is because these sorts of events invite us to reassess how we think about ourselves and those around us. Often, the biggest and most pressing of these concerns involve difficult relatives or thorny work issues. Maintaining a serene outlook when grappling with an ongoing irritation is no easy task. We need to remember that whoever is being obstinate isn’t necessarily behaving this way to provoke us (although, sometimes, they are). Whether they’re deliberately provoking us or not, what we need to do is the same: keep calm and hold our fire. At least that’s true for those of us whose tendency it is to fight back. For those of you more inclined simply to roll over and play dead, your lessons are of an entirely different order. No matter what our personal challenge is, a re-boot of our attitude towards this matter is required. The onus lays on us.

I want you to take a minute and reflect upon a situation or relationship that irritates you. Now, test out in your mind a new way to assess what’s going on. What is it about the other person’s behavior that reflects a bigger, overarching theme in who they are? Can you think of instances when they’ve behaved similarly with other people? Is, in fact, your situation just another example of them doing the same thing over and over?

The reason I am prodding you to go in this direction is because the more we recognize patterns of behavior, the more we will see that what they’re doing is about them, not us. Getting to a place where we don’t take the behavior of others personally is a tremendous advantage! I have learned this first hand and it is something I struggle with a lot—not taking things personally. For those of you whose temperaments are such that you, naturally, don’t take things personally, it’s smart to recognize that not everyone is like you. The reason I say this is so that it’s easier for you to understand why some people react poorly when you announce that you’re going to do Y instead of X. They perceive your choice of X as a diminishment of what they’ve chosen. (It’s not true, of course, but that’s how they see it.) It’s my opinion that, in general, men are much better at this than women, but I know plenty of men who take things personally and dealing with them is a gigantic pain in the ass.

I’ll give you an embarrassing example from my life. One of the most powerful and useful pieces of advice a counselor gave me was after a session spent griping about whatever inanities were driving me crazy–mundane examples of ordinary bullshit. “They’re not doing it to purposely annoy you,” he observed. What?!? His words came as a revelation! Recognizing the truth of what he said has made a remarkable impact on my ability to negotiate my day. I’m not nearly as pissed off about stuff as I used to be. I reminded myself of this even this morning when I went to the market along with the 50,000 other people who thoughtlessly abandoned their carts in front of the vegetable display. While I feel chagrinned offering up this petty example about myself, I’m doing so for two reasons: #1 remembering this mantra helps me move through my day with far fewer feathers ruffled and #2 it demonstrates just how hard it is to remove oneself from the equation.

Here I am, years later, writing this blog about re-booting, urging you not to take things personally and I continue to wrestle with my annoyance at the thoughtlessness of others. This stuff ain’t easy! In fact, it’s really, really hard to change how we perceive and think about the world. But change we must. It’s a re-booter’s prerogative to get with the program and find a better way to live. If we can manage this, not only will we feel a lot more serene, but we can model it for others.

They may not change, but we can.

Ok, so back to that situation I asked you to reflect upon earlier. What I want you to consider is how you might modify your attitude to whatever your annoying situation is. How can you shift your perspective enough that doing so improves the relationship? You can’t be a peacemaker if you’re all stirred up yourself. You’ve got six months ahead of you—GO.

Time flies


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2 Responses to “What Progress Have You Made?”

  1. Jim Patterson Says:

    Another phrase I use to myself when other folks annoy me is “It is not always about me” meaning it usually isn’t. My personalizing of other peoples comments is ridiculous.

    Even if their opinion is at odds with mine, is it worth getting upset about? Do I have to have others agree with my opinions or my ideas and if they don’t, do I need to go into a tizzy about it? Is this a strange form of acceptance that I crave from others—their agreement with my opinions?? Is my anger when others do not agree with me just my childish intolerance of others where I expect the whole world to revolve around me?

    Anyway, Good blog Chrisanna!

  2. dignitarysretreat Says:

    All good strategies, Jim, thanks for your comment. Childish intolerance is so, so true. Insecurity, etc. I completely agree!

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