It’s so easy to complain. The reasons may change from season to season and person to person, but we all do it. Lately, crews have torn up roads in our area, contractors and the transportation dept. have closed bridges and rerouted traffic. Not another detour! I had to drive to another town to pick up a package because the address was off by one number and UPS wouldn’t look up the correct one in the phone book. How timely then to come across an article by Peter Bregman, a consultant to CEO’s, called “The Best Strategy for Reducing Stress.”
Members of Bregman’s network have different complaints from mine — this week, anyway. Unlike me they have jobs and their work slows down when faced with dropped cellphone or internet connections. Bregman says that when situations like this occur, you can “either change the reality around you or you can change your expectations.”
It’s hard to change things we can’t control, so how do we change our expectations? “Get used to not getting what you want,” is Bregman’s solution. This is not something those of us who like to have our way want to hear, but here’s how he suggests we reframe our thinking when we find ourselves facing dropped calls, traffic jams or whatever daily situations we find annoying. “Imagine a scale of 1-10 with ten being the worst reality you can imagine.” You can probably come up with your own image without help. Mine might be serving as a soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan, not being able to go outside the house without covering myself from head to toe and wearing blinders, or being terminally ill. Then you place your normally stressful experiences on this same scale. Where would they land? Nowhere near ten I hope. Bergman says, “Our moods and our stress levels are determined by events that actually matter remarkably little,” and he’s right. This is good advice for the next time something small doesn’t go our way. It’s even wise to consider for the next time something big doesn’t go our way, but for most of us reframing the latter takes a greater commitment to changing how we think than referring to a ten-point scale.