On Friday I started reading an interesting book with just the kind of title designed to grab the attention of people with my sense of humor. “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” by Mark Manson. A book slightly off from your classic self-help/psychology/be happier book, Mark’s book is a rather honest look at how we look at ourselves. I’m not much of a reader outside of what is required of me in school, but this book I have enjoyed immensely.
Of the many interesting anecdotes and examples given in this book, one that has stuck out to me is a section entitled “The Responsibility/Fault Fallacy”. I’ll spare you the details (you should buy the book for those), but the premise is essentially that there is a freeing and empowering aspect to owning responsibility for absolutely everything that happens in your daily life.
This is separate from owning blame for everything that happens. The idea is that while any number of things can happen to you, how you respond to those events is entirely your responsibility. How you choose to react is your responsibility. If someone cuts you off in traffic and you get pissed off and go home angry and yell at your spouse over something stupid, well that’s your responsibility. It may be that idiot in traffic who cut you off who you blame for your anger, but you chose to react the way you did.
So with that in mind, I’m going to try and periodically look back at a few things I own responsibility for from day to day. It probably won’t be the most exciting list ever, but it’s worth a shot.
- I go to a small neighborhood gym less than a quarter mile from my house. It’s cheap and convenient and I really like going there. Except for the fact that about 85% of the time I show up there, the place is a mess. People seem to have an aversion to putting weights away, wiping down equipment after they use it, you know the common gym etiquette things. Today however I walked in and needed to use the bathroom, so I walked into the bathroom and found the toilet filled to the brim with a fresh steaming pile of…well you can guess. Was the toilet broken? Nope, just the handle. A quick removal of the toilet cover, a press of the (surprisingly advanced) button to trigger a flush, and boom, clean toilet bowl.
- What was my responsibility? Well clearly I wasn’t the one who decided to leave a steaming turd in a public restroom, but I was the one unlucky enough to find it. Stuff like this really pisses me off, and it only added to my frustration with my fellow gym members, so what were my choices? I could storm out, enraged, and still needing to go to the bathroom, and probably have had a terrible workout. Or I could just fix the issue and be a decent person, then get on with my workout, which I did. That’s right, admire my courage, I refuse to let bathroom terrorists ruin my workout.
- That ‘cut you off in traffic’ example wasn’t terribly original, and I have to admit it came from somewhere. I went to Chipotle today to pick up lunch, and sure enough I got cut off in the parking lot. Once the offending vehicle went and parked, I found a spot for myself, and hurried my way in through a side door into Chipotle. Once I got in, there, trying unsuccessfully to open the front door, was the woman who had cut me off…and her small child.
- Sweet revenge! I beat you inside and now you can’t even get in! Victory for me! Right? Wait, does that make me a bigger jerk than her for cutting me off?
- Yes, yes it would have. Yeah she cut me off, but I survived. besides, I got inside first and now this woman can’t even get the door open. Of course I went over and opened the door for her, she even smiled widely and thanked me.
I’m sure by this point your admiration for me is just through the roof. Wow A-Rod, you flushed a toilet and opened a door, what time does the parade start?? That’s not the point, the point is these were two small examples where I chose to own what happened going forward. People had done stupid things that could have easily put me in a bad mood. I chose not to let that happen, and I chose to do the right thing, and I’ll admit it, I feel better for it.
Life is full of opportunities every day to piss you off, to beat you down. Bear in mind that in both of those examples I’m not saying I didn’t get mad or annoyed (I did), the point is that the decision was mine to not let that feeling take hold of me and form the rest of my day. I got my workout, I got my lunch, I went home happy and had a good day with my wife.
What better way to end a weekend?