While traveling last week, I quickly became anxious after discovering that my flight was delayed and that I might miss my bus to my final destination as a result.
The consequence of missing the bus would be another 2-hour wait for the next bus — something I was not looking forward to.
This anxious response persisted for quite some time:
At the gate, I feverishly refreshed the flight status to see if the departure time had been moved up.
On the plane, in addition to continuing to refresh the flight status, I made matters worse for myself by beginning to imagine how I would feel and what I would do if I missed the bus (oh boy).
It wasn’t until 30-minutes into my flight that I finally came to my senses and recognized two things:
- Whether I knew about the flight status or not, the plane was going to land when it was going to land.
- Whether I was anxious or not, the plane was going to land when it was going to land.
Realizing that I had no meaningful control over the outcome suddenly made it much easier for me to quickly suspend my worries and relax.
Counter-productive, draining, and generally unhelpful responses happen to the best of us:
Sometimes we get anxious and frustrated about situations that we cannot control.
Sometimes we spend more time than we probably should thinking about what others think about us.
While it’s unlikely that you can avoid these kinds of responses altogether, you can improve your ability to quickly recognize and defuse them.
Before you invest any significant amount of energy into a reaction, ask yourself: “will this reaction affect the outcome?”
In situations where the answer is “no”, you’ll quickly find that the half-life of your reaction is much shorter than you think.
It’s possible to discover the futility of your efforts in one moment and completely redirect your energy and mindset in the next moment.
You’ll also come to realize that responses like frustration, anger, and aggression are seldom helpful.
While you may not have the power to control every situation, you can learn to effectively manage your response and conserve your energy for situations where your efforts are capable of affecting the outcome.