How much would it bother you if someone took your parking space, didn’t like “like” your post on Facebook, or interrupted you when you are clearly in the process of reading a book? Indifferent, mildly annoyed, infuriated, or vengeful? I choose all of the above. Then again, I am not a very Zen-like person…but let me introduce you to people who are.
In last week’s blog, I revealed some of the results of our study where we compared the personality profile of Zen-like people who are able to let go of little annoyances, and those who are not. Here are the other areas where they differed:
- Score for the “everything is a big deal” group: 57
- Score for the “let it go/everything is Zen” group: 71
You need a good set of coping skills to get through life’s ups and downs, but if you’re the type of person who let’s even the smallest things get to you, then make it a priority to develop your coping skills: Find a support network, read inspiring books, practice meditation, learn to view circumstances from a more positive perspective, talk things out with someone you trust, read empowering books, try a few sessions with a therapist or life coach…find a few coping skills that work for you and use them regularly.
“If you lose your mind over minor issues, how are you ever going to be able to cope with bigger ones?” my friend once asked.
“Easy,” I responded. “I’ll roll up into a little ball on the floor of my closet, and I won’t come out until things are better.”
Truthfully though, I find that while major hardship will stress me out, once I have my little freak out my mind goes into problem-solving/survival mode. I look for solutions and plow ahead until I get through the ordeal. So why can’t I do this with minor annoyances? I yearn to learn the secrets of these Zen people who don’t let anything or anyone get to them. People like the Dalai Lama, Eckhart Tolle, and even Oprah seem superhuman to me.
- Score for the “everything is a big deal” group: 51
- Score for the “let it go/everything is Zen” group: 69
If I am not mindful of my thoughts and feelings, they’re like racehorses without a jockey, chariots without a driver: They start to get wildly out of control. When it comes to letting go of the little things, Zen people know how to put their thoughts and feelings into perspective. They recognize that, in the grand scheme of things, a lot of things we make a big deal about are not really a big deal.
When I find myself fussing over an issue, I ask myself the following question:
“Will this matter in 10 days, 10 weeks, 10 years?” The answer is always “No”.
And if I have done something humiliating or embarrassed myself, I ask:
“Will anyone involved care about this in 10 days, 10 weeks, 10 years?” The answer, again, is almost always “No”.
- Score for the “everything is a big deal” group: 53
- Score for the “let it go/everything is Zen” group: 68
If you’ll notice, the positive mindset score for the Zen group is a moderately high 68 (on a scale from 0 to 100). Essentially, these are not Pollyannas who ignore problems and pretend everything is sunshine and rainbows. Zen people know they will have to cope with negative situations and people – and they accept this. However, they also choose not to make a big deal of things, and won’t dwell on issues.
- Score for the “everything is a big deal” group: 47
- Score for the “let it go/everything is Zen” group: 60
If someone has difficulty letting go of little annoyances, then there’s a good chance they are not very good at controlling their emotions in general. Your ability to get through a situation depends on your reaction to it. The more you make a big deal of it, the greater the emotional upheaval…and the harder it is to overcome. Overall, Zen-like people are better at keeping their emotions under control, and will try not to allow little things to get a rise out of them.
Comfort with emotional situations and people
- Score for the “everything is a big deal” group: 49
- Score for the “let it go/everything is Zen” group: 60
When my brother and I were kids, my mother and her friend (with her two children) would coordinate pediatrician appointments so we could all go together. My biggest fear always revolved around vaccinations, because we never knew when to expect them. So together with my brother and my friends, we would strategize methods to make the needle hurt less. We tried holding our breath, looking the other way, singing, thinking about something funny…but to be honest, nothing really worked. It was only as I got older that I realized the best method was to accept the reality of pain, and just allow it to happen. From that point on, needles never bothered me.
Zen-like people understand that sometimes, you just have to deal with a difficult situation or difficult person directly. If anything, attempting to avoid them will actually make you feel worse. Acceptance is powerful, but it’s important to understand that acceptance is not the same as passivity or giving up. It’s saying, “It is what it is, but I will not allow myself to be broken by this. I will overcome this.”
- Score for the “everything is a big deal” group: 54
- Score for the “let it go/everything is Zen” group: 65
Here’s what happens when you can let go of life’s little annoyances: You’re less stressed. You feel calmer and more relaxed. You’re happier. You’re more attractive (I have no proof of this, but I assume it’s true because you’ll be smiling more, and nothing is more attractive than a smile). So don’t dedicate any more thoughts to that snarky remark you heard this morning. Dismiss the driver who cut you off. Accept the slow cashier, the long line at the bank, the crying baby in the seat next to you, the rainy day and the rude customer. Think about how the situation fits into the grand scheme of things, and you’ll realize that nearly everything in life is not worth getting upset over.
And when you reach that point, let me know, because I’d love to learn how.