Monday, June 11, 2012
Just Think...It Could Be Worse
Often times, things do not go as we planned or we experience unpleasant situations. In most cases, we get consumed with the negative and focus all our attention on being annoyed, angry, frustrated, agitated, pissed off -- the list could go on and on. We are not feeling good and we feed off of that. We may complain, have a running dialogue in our head about all the things that are bothering us, feel sorry for ourselves, focus on all that is wrong, all that is lacking, all that we do not like. Understandable of course as it is natural to prefer certain circumstances over others. But, if we can work on shifting our perspective in the moment, we can alleviate a lot of this suffering, maybe even completely eliminate it. We can learn to go with the flow and accept the moment rather than fighting against what is. I am getting better at this shift though I still need some practice and luckily life presents plenty of opportunities for that practice.
I thought to write this post after a recent experience I had on my journey through SE Asia. I had booked a bus from Chiang Mai to Bangkok and let's just say the travel agent was less than forthcoming about the quality of said bus. They were using the term VIP quite loosely it seems. Having taken overnight long-distance buses in Thailand before, I was expecting something quite different than what I came across when I got dropped off. As the driver pulled into a gas station, I figured he was stopping to refuel since there was no way the old-ass bus parked off to the side could have possibly been where I would be spending the next 12 hours or so. Well, I was wrong about that. Old, dirty, stained, no blanket, no pillows, small seats, no snacks -- nothing like the buses I had taken previously. They did play the movie Bridesmaids, however, which redeemed them a bit, but not much. Travel tends to make me cranky and the condition of the bus coupled with my annoyance at being misled by the travel agent did not get the trip off to a good start. I was quite annoyed.
After stewing for a bit, I started to gain some perspective. Yes, it was understandable that I preferred to travel in more comfortable conditions. But, I was not in danger of dying from lack of snacks and a cozy blanket. I was traveling the world, a dream so many people never make the effort to actually realize. Instead of riding on that uncomfortable bus where I could feel every bump, I could be on my way to a job I hate, stuck in the daily morning traffic jam. Someone in this position would probably want to slap me for complaining about something such as this and understandably so. When I viewed the situation in this way, that shitty bus seemed a lot more tolerable. I shifted my focus to things that made me feel good, that made me feel grateful and my mood lifted.
While we may not make this successful mental transition every time, letting this idea permeate our consciousness will help us do it more often. Next time you find yourself getting annoyed at something, think how the situation could be worse. Think of something positive. You are waiting in line at the DMV...annoying as hell but not having a car would probably be more troublesome. You are stuck in a long line at the airport...again, annoying as hell but better than being stuck at work dealing with irritating clients, co-workers and bosses. You get the picture.
So much of our daily suffering is triggered by these types of small things, things that in the grand scheme of life, are really not that bad. If we can learn to look at these situations differently, it can make a profound impact on our lives.