The First Splendid Truth about happiness is: to think about your happiness, you must think about
1. feeling good,
2. feeling bad, and
3. feeling right, in
4. an atmosphere of growth.
In my Happiness Project, I think mostly about #2. I’m really working to try to remove causes of the feelings of guilt, anxiety, irritation, boredom, frustration, irritation, envy, etc. I find it much easier to “feel good” and to “feel right” about myself when I’m not “feeling bad.”
One thing I try to do is to identify triggers. So, for example, I spent a huge amount of time clearing the clutter in my apartment, because I realized that when I feel overwhelmed by mess, my irritability is triggered.
Another one of my triggers is customer support or any kind of phone interaction with a company. Cable tech support, cell phone problems, etc. I find it so hard to remain patient and cheerful. It’s so foolish to lose my temper and act annoyed, because the person on the other line usually becomes less cooperative—and MUCH WORSE, I feel guilty about the way I’ve behaved.
So last night, I did everything wrong.
Someone called from a company—which shall remain nameless, though I vindictively toyed with the idea of including its name in this post.
Starting several months ago, this company should have started sending us monthly bills, but we never got them. A few months ago, they started making a lot of harassing phone calls to get us to pay. Which we were eager to do! After a lot of back and forth, and the alleged confirming of our address, it turned out that they were sending our bills to the west side, not the east side. It’s just one letter on the address line, either “E.” or “W.” but it makes a BIG difference.
So we thought that was straightened out.
Then the calls started again. They hadn’t received our most recent payment. Because we hadn’t received their most recent bill!
I said to the woman, with irritation, “Why can’t XXX manage to get our bills delivered to us?”
She said, “The bills are just a courtesy. You signed a contract and are responsible for payment whether or not you receive a bill.”
I lost my temper. “You mean that I’m a customer of a company that can’t be relied upon successfully to deliver a bill to my residence? Who doesn’t consider that a responsibility? And I’m supposed to rely on you for [unidentified services]?”
“You’re shifting the responsibility. You’re responsible for your bill.”
I’m really ashamed by my reaction. I instantly became bellicose and obnoxious. Even worse, thinking back on it, I realize that I’d led the conversation in a way that made her make the kind of statements to me that would look VERY bad to a supervisor (if in fact they ever do listen to recordings “for quality assurance purposes”).
Finally, I got a grip on myself and got off the phone. I felt terrible all night. I had to steel myself to make sure I didn’t snap at the girls or the Big Man, just in reaction to my own guilty feelings.
So the happiness lesson?
Identify triggers and BE ON YOUR GUARD. I should have steeled myself better for the interaction, I knew the phone was a trigger for me. Take steps to keep yourself calm and good-natured when you’re in a situation that sets you off.
I have to remember my commandment to “Act the way I want to feel” (see left column). If I want to feel patient, act patient. If I don’t want to feel obnoxious, don’t act obnoxious.
What are your triggers? Maybe it’s being in the car. Or getting dinner ready. Or the morning routine. Or the afternoon before the weekly report is due.
If you act bad, you’re going to feel bad. Yelling, whining, complaining, attacking—they don’t help, they make matters worse.
I accomplished nothing except ruining my evening, and probably hers, too. There was no catharsis, no glee, no triumph – just horrible feelings of self-accusation for being so obnoxious.
As Adam Smith warned, “The consciousness, or even the suspicion, of having done wrong, is a load upon every mind, and is accompanied with anxiety and terror in all those who are not hardened by long habits of iniquity.”
Be happier! Know your trigger. Bite your tongue and avoid anxiety and terror.
If you’re starting your own happiness project, please join the Happiness Project Group on Facebook to swap ideas. It’s easy; it’s free.
There’s a smorgasbord of great information on Dumb Little Man — lots of fun to jump around and see what you can find.
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