How To Stop Sweating the Small Stuff

The latecomers who crowd into my yoga class.

The in-flight WiFi that never seems to work.

An appointment that runs super long, throwing a wrench in my schedule.

We all have little annoyances like these that threaten to consume more energy than they deserve.

Like many people, I typically start the year with big intentions to keep these minor setbacks in perspective. Then, along comes a day when the world seems to conspire to throw continual roadblocks in my path, and my Zen mindset lapses.

That’s why I have vowed that 2018 is the year I’m going to make progress on more effectively dealing with these inconveniences life throws at me. Because let’s face it…they just keep coming.  

I’ve started noticing how others deal with these kinds of petty annoyances, and I thought I’d share some of my favorite tactics in case they might be helpful to you, too.  

Here Are Four Ways to Effectively Deal With Life’s Daily Inconveniences  

1. Make your plans based on the “worst-case scenario.”

The majority of annoyances seem to involve a common problem — running late. And yet it shouldn’t be unexpected that traffic is snarled or your train is late or an elevator takes forever.

Often we time our plans by assuming that everything will run smoothly, which is pretty unrealistic, and then we start to feel anxious as the minutes tick by. However, I find that when I remember to pad my schedule with a buffer, I’m amazed at how much calmer I feel and how much easier it is to deal with the inevitable delays. And if I get somewhere early, I have a few extra minutes to read or check Twitter.

2. Expect a certain number of daily nuisances.

Lowering your expectations can do wonders for your mindset. What if you treated disruptions and inconveniences as a default expectation, rather than an interruption?

I once heard a speaker mention that a typical day entails about 200 aggravations. High, right? But, that pessimistic expectation sets the stage for the fact that any day with fewer than 200 annoyances is actually pretty great. Sometimes in my head I’ll even say “OK…one annoyance down, 199 to go!” Each tiny grievance seems a little less painful when viewed through that lens.

3. Realize that no one has it easy.

Often we make a mountain out of a molehill by focusing on tiny obstacles that might appear to hamper our progress. In those times, I find it illuminating to look at how others have dealt with real, serious challenges.

One surprising place to find these types of stories is in obituaries. When I read other people’s full life (and death) stories, I realize that even the most successful among us rarely enjoy completely smooth sailing. (Exhibit A: My blog post on “Everybody Bombs,” featuring many of our favorite comedians.)

If you’re looking for similar perspective, you also might read (or re-read) the book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth. I love it as a demonstration of how perseverance combined with determination can help you overcome a multitude of obstacles, large or small.

4. “Bring it on!”

This is my favorite new strategy for dealing with small irritations. I really admire those who can look at an annoying problem with relish and say, “Show me what you’ve got, world. I can take it!”

For example, a former client of mine was like a dog with a bone in tracking down bureaucratic paperwork. Truly! She delighted in the challenge that came from trying to find a wayward receipt or receive expedited approval on a payment request. Her mission was to deftly navigate the corporate maze and get stuff done as quickly as possible. This can-do attitude manifested itself as a mentality that she was going to fight the system and win — no matter what obstacles appeared in her way.  

Fall Down Seven Times; Get Up Eight

I have always loved the Japanese proverb “Nana korobi ya oki,” which translates to “Fall down seven times; get up eight.” Of course, sometimes life’s “falls” are far more serious than mere “annoyances,” but I think this proverb applies just as well to the small grievances that we encounter each day. You may find that all it takes is a little tweak like one of the strategies above to be able to dust yourself off and move forward.

What is one aggravation you routinely encounter that you’ve found a better way to deal with? I’d love to hear below or on Twitter.

Lindsey Pollak is the leading expert on millennials and the multigenerational workplace, trusted by global companies, universities and the world’s top media outlets. A New York Times bestselling author and keynote speaker, Lindsey began her career as a dorm RA in college and has been mentoring millennials — and explaining them to other generations — ever since. Her presentations have audiences so engaged that, in the words of one attendee, “I didn’t check my phone once!” Contact Lindsey to discuss a speaking engagement for your organization.

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Lindsey is a globally recognized career and workplace expert and the leading voice on generational diversity. She has spoken for more than 300 audiences including Google, Goldman Sachs, Estee Lauder, Stanford and Wharton. Lindsey is the author of four career and workplace advice books, and her insights have appeared in media outlets including The TODAY Show, CNBC, NPR, the Harvard Business Review and the Wall Street Journal.


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