Keeping things in perspective

There is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so.
William Shakespeare
1564 – 1616

In his book, Influence: Science and Practice, Robert Cialdini tells a story about a young girl away at college. She writes a letter to her parents, first apologizing for not having written sooner. She then goes on to say that the skull fracture and concussion she got when she jumped from her dorm window to escape the fire is healing nicely. Fortunately, a service station attendant witnessed her jump, rescued her and took her to the hospital. Since she had no place to stay, the attendant allowed her to stay with him… and as a result of her staying with the man, a baby was on the way.

At the end of the letter, she explained that there was no skull fracture, no fire in her dorm room, no service station attendant and no baby on the way. But she did say that she had gotten a D in chemistry.

Compared to the many unpleasant events she’d recounted, a D in chemistry was hardly earth shattering. Had she just reported the failing grade, her parents almost certainly would have reacted in a negative manner. But by putting the D in perspective, she likely escaped with very little scolding.

I tell this story to emphasize a problem I see in our day to day lives. I think we often take things out of perspective. We let small incidents grow into major issues.

For instance, it’s not uncommon to let the careless or rude behavior of some driver ruin our day. But who do we hurt when we let our blood pressure go through the roof in response to someone’s rudeness? Generally, our reaction has no impact on the person at fault. But our reactions can and do negatively affect our health. And our altered moods frequently carry over to other relationships; we become curt with someone who had nothing to do with the incident.

The next time you find yourself getting upset over some minor inconvenience, ask what impact the situation will have in five years. Chances are, it will be long forgotten. But the constant emotional flare-ups from these incidents will take their toll on your health and relationships.

Learn to put things in the proper perspective. Learn to overlook the petty things that people do to try to gain an advantage, whether on the road, in line at the supermarket, or wherever they occur.

Let your energy be spent on the truly important things. Make sure you spend your efforts on things in life that count.

I have often regretted my speech, never my silence.
Publilius Syrus
1st Century B.C.

Copyright © 2018 by John Chancellor

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