Moments of choice


We've all had those moments when we've done something we're not proud of. 
Doesn't have to be a big deal. A cruel word perhaps. An uncharitable thought. A loss of self-control. 
Beating ourselves up about it is pointless. Worse, it reinforces any sense of guilt or shame we might already be tempted to feel.
Even worse than giving ourselves a hard time though is choosing to blame someone or something else for our moment of weakness, or anger, or fear, or hypocrisy. 
Sure, it might cover the uncomfortable feeling up for a short time, but the cost is too high. It deprives us of any opportunity to make amends, to learn, to grow, to teach even.
And it separates us from others when the only sustainable direction for progress is towards collaboration, and the only way to grow is to take responsibility.
Next time you’re unhappy about something you’ve done and you’re tempted to blame:

  • The government
  • A colleague
  • Circumstance
  • The weather
  • Yourself…….

Ask yourself a simple (perhaps not easy) question: How else would I choose to do this next time? 

Then resolve to do that. 

You can teach an old dog new tricks

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Now, this isn't necessarily easy, and if your dog's like mine with a few bad habits that irritate but don't cause too much pain, why would you bother?

However, if the old dog in question is actually a cranky old person, and particularly if it's yourself, then it most certainly is worth the effort. 

You see we learn things in our younger years that seem to serve us pretty well. Either way, we embed them through years of practice until they become habits. We never question them and we probably believe they are just "who we are".

However, if these habits are based on a confrontational and controlling approach to the world then they are NO LONGER HELPING.

In fact they may well be ruining your life.

What if you could learn some new tricks?  Ones that make you happier, wiser, better loved and more respected?

That might be worth some effort. 

The philosopher Epictetus had some great advice for those who wanted to be happy. I paraphrase, but he might have said something along the lines of:

"Lighten the hell up! Stop pushing back on things you can't control (weather, children, stock market, for example) and practice controlling the only thing you really can. Your response to all these things."

Here's something to try:

Step 1 - Next time you find yourself criticising, judging, feeling intolerant or getting angry, ask yourself what impact it really has on the things you wish to control. 
Step 2 - Notice the affect it's having on you.
Step 3 - Lighten the hell up.

You should still take action when you can change things for the better. But you should stop making yourself unhappy by ruminating about things you can't. 




You are a Cranky Old Bastard if…


If you find yourself doing any of these things on a regular basis:

  • Giving someone the finger in traffic (or even thinking about it),
  • Sticking it to the referee even though you know your team didn’t deserve to win,
  • Complaining to friends or colleagues about your wife,
  • Complaining to your wife about your friends or colleagues,
  • Complaining to friends about your kids,
  • Getting pissed-off every time you read the newspaper or watch the news,
  • Resenting work when you used to thrive on it,
  • Criticising our wonderful politicians*

I could go on, but that might be depressing.

If you’re guilty of any two of these things, then Cranky Bastard Syndrome has you in its sights. Three to five and you’re firmly in its grip. All eight and you’re probably not getting invited to many dinner parties.

Happily, the solution is simple, if not easy.

Just single out one of these nasty habits at a time and start to overcome it!

Notice whenever you’re tempted to engage in the behaviour. Stop, take a few deep breaths, and ask yourself what it is about it that’s upsetting you. If there’s nothing you can do to change the situation and you’re just ruminating over it, get over yourself! 

Drop the criticism or the negative thoughts that are creeping in, accept that the World won’t always do your bidding, and focus on something you can act on, like giving someone close to you some positive feedback.

This does require commitment and practice, but you’ve faced tougher challenges before, and unless you really enjoy the stress those negative reactions cause, it’s well worth the effort.



* OK – this one might be justifiable……