When I was in my early to mid-twenties I was being promoted from my Junior Achievement job in Abilene, Texas, to a larger office in West Palm Beach. My promotion ended up in the newspaper and one of my friends, Susan, that I’d had a tiff with and hadn’t spoken to in a couple of years, stopped by my office to congratulate me and wish me good luck in my new venture. The funny thing is that when I saw her I couldn’t remember what we’d had a disagreement over. Much less one so big that we didn’t speak for a couple of years. I still can’t remember what it was about.
After Susan stopped by we traded holiday cards for a couple of years but eventually lost contact. However, this time it was just the natural evolution of people not being in the same cities and each moving forward her life.
When I think back to that lesson, it taught me that if I won’t remember something a year from now, it isn’t worth giving up a minute of my happiness beyond the actual unhappy moment.
Unhappiness happens to varying degrees. If it’s significant, like if your best friends cheats with your husband, a family member dies, or you lose your job, you’re going to remember it a year from now. These unhappy moments take time to process and move past. They usually involve change and adjustments. They may even involve grieving or mourning.
However, most unhappiness is inconsequential and momentary. It’s being stuck in a traffic jam. It’s when someone didn’t do or say what we thought they should have. It’s when we don’t like the weather. It’s when we oversleep and run late. It’s when someone’s bad mood rains on our parade of contentment and happiness. It can be a million little things – things that we won’t remember next week, much less next year.
These are the circumstances when happiness is a choice. You have a choice about how you’re going to deal with the insignificant moments of unhappiness.
I’m not saying ignore them if they make you unhappy. If you do, you eventually explode like a volcano and the volcanic ash will land not only one the culprits of your anger but also on innocent by standers.
The best way to process your anger is to redefine it by asking the simple questions, “Will I remember it a week from now? A month from now? A year from now?” When you realize you won’t, that redefines the unhappiness. It makes it easy to recognize it’s momentary and inconsequential. This makes it easier to move on to the happy moment that’s probably looking for you.
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