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It’s Not Your Life… It’s His (or Hers)
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Ann Landers had some good advice when it came to sticking our nose where it doesn’t belong. She said simply this: “Make somebody happy today. Mind your own business.”

Great advice, indeed! Yet, sometimes we just can’t help ourselves. We witness an event, hear a news story about something someone said or did, and we think to ourselves (or more likely say to others), “I would never have done that!” or “That’s not how I would have responded.”

The frustration or anger that can well inside us from situations that are not only out of our control, but have nothing to do with us, chips away at our peace of mind and releases stress hormones which, left unattended, can lead to health-related problems. As I’ve said before in previous blogs, managing stress begins with recognizing and understanding the habits that serve us and the habits that don’t serve us. Developing a plan for managing stress requires an understanding of and commitment to the change process, and then taking small steps to change those identified behaviors that keep us from living a flourishing life.

 So, ask yourself…honestly…

  • Do you find yourself frustrated, annoyed, or angered by the actions (or words) of others that have nothing to do with you?
  • Do you take as a personal affront situations that have nothing to do with you?
  • Do you sometimes meddle in what does not concern you?

Let’s see how involved you are in other people’s matters. True or false…

1.     When I find myself eavesdropping on others’ conversations, I draw conclusions.  T     F

2.     When I’m out to dinner, other diners’ misbehaving children irritate me.   T     F

3.     While my spouse (partner, friend) is on the phone, I make comments in response                 to his or her conversation.   T     F

4.     People who drive cautiously drive me nuts.     T     F

If you saw yourself in the above scenarios, perhaps it’s time to make some changes. A good way to go about changing behavior that does not serve you is to examine your history, your actions, and your reactions. 

Here are a few questions I have my students explore. Get yourself a journal or notebook. Take some quiet time and really reflect on these questions. Answer them honestly. This exercise is for you. Recognizing what motivates your behavior is the first step towards changing it.

1.     Detail a scenario/situation that did not concern you, but did frustrate, anger, or annoy you.

2.     How did the above scenario/situation make you feel?

3.     Why do you think the scenario/situation affected you when it did not concern you?

4.     Did the scenario/situation remind you of a personal event from your past? If so, what happened and how did you respond to it at the time?



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Rita,While I'm in general


While I'm in general agreement with your advice to concern ourselves with our own affairs only and avoid meddling,  it's sometimes difficult to know what is and is not an appropriate personal concern.  For example, if one notices a rising/increasing trend in a particular type of social or cultural behavior [as simple as a parent not "calling" a child on littering or not recycling in a public park] that could eventually impact what is called the  overall "quality of life" or milieu of one's community, isn't that behavior an appropriate concern or worry of others? Yet even a gentle verbal reminder to such a parent is a clear example of meddling with potential dangers to the meddler as well if the parent takes offense.

 Another example would be people's loud and intrusive use of uncivil, vulgar and/or abusive language in public places [e.g., cinemas, restaurants, public transit].  Isn't this behavior a kind of  public "pollution" of one's social environment and hence a legitimate or appropriate personal concern? On public transit, I once had to "endure" an unbelievably explicit conversation about sexual experiences.

In one sense, this issue comes down to an appropriate balance between "cocooning" one's self and exercising civic participation or responsibilities for the greater good of the community.  I'm reminded of  the folk wisdom in a favorite saying of my elders when I was growing up:  "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

Be well,