Getting Mad Does Not Get It Done

Today’s Lesson: Being mad is not the same as being effective.


It was all I could do to keep from slamming my fist on my laptop and shattering it. The anger welled in me and I realized I was clinching my fists.

I almost never find myself angry at people. I understand them. I can usually see where they are coming from and have empathy for their emotional distress. I do, however, find I have an absurdly short fuse for inanimate objects that refuse to do my bidding. When I am stuck on a technical computer problem or when my toaster oven does not make toast, I have to fight the urge not to throw it out a window.

After spending most of yesterday and today trying to fix a problem with one of our blogs (and creating more problems along the way), I realized I needed to do something I hate doing or I was going to lose my cool.

I had to ask for help.

I swallowed and took a few deep breaths, then picked up the phone and called my web hosting provider. A young man named Boston answered and asked how he could assist me. Exasperated, I explained the situation with far too many verbs in far too much detail, but Boston politely listened until I lost steam. Then he said, “Oh, right. The problem you’re having is due to an issue with our script-engine. We should have it up and running tonight but I will help you undo the unnecessary changes you made and get you back to where you started yesterday.”

Unfortunately, this affected all my sites and I lost two days’ worth of blog posts (including the back ups).

I realized no matter how mad I became at my Chromebook, there was nothing it (or I) could have done to make my websites magically work. I probably should have called Boston twelve hours earlier (but I still have not learned to like asking for help–maybe in a future lesson…). I could have saved several hours of bottling up frustration and pushing toxic emotions into myself and the world.

Being mad when life does not work as we think it should might make us momentarily feel justified (until we realize our anger made the situation worse) but in the end the world will remain unchanged and our anger will have been spent on nothing. Better to practice patience, pause until we feel calm, and then try another approach.



Am I Angry At You?

Words are powerful. It is fun to take a close look at how we use them.


I find it interesting that we say things like, “I am angry at you!” AT you? We feel angry at a person or towards something. We are in love with somebody.

Our relationship to emotions is curious. We expel them from our bodies as if they are projectiles that we can throw at other people like baseballs. I am mad at you! The thing is, we let emotions live in our language in such a way that we are absolved of our responsibility for feeling them. We never say, “I am Anger now!”. Yet, curiously, we do say, “I am happy.” Perhaps we find it easier to accept we are present and in sync with a positive feeling but negative emotions happen to us.

Either way, think about how you use language to convey both the feelings you expel to others and accept from them, and listen to the language you use when defining your own emotions.


Today’s lesson: It is okay to feel emotions. Do not let yourself off the hook, however, for feeling them. Be conscious of the words you use to share your feelings. The onus is on you to take responsibility for who you are, not on others to accept you for who you feel like being.





How to Deal With Interruptions

I deal poorly with interruptions. How about you?
I am probably not alone in this but when I am deep in concentration and someone interrupts my thinking (which, of course, they can not see), a flare of anger shoots up the middle of my body. I can feel it behind my eyes and I sometimes wonder if the person can actually see my disproportionate irritation.

There are plenty of studies showing the damage interruptions cause to productivity but I do not care about that so much. What bothers me is not the interruption but rather my reaction to the interruption. Most interruptions are innocuous. Someone is simply asking a question, saying good morning, or checking if I need anything. There is no legitimate reason to feel angry and, in truth, I probably needed the interruption if I was so lost in thought that somebody else’s presence seemed insignificant.

I have been working on reigning in that flash of anger with a breath, a smile (sometimes internally), and a reminder to be appreciative that people (or pets) in my life care enough to want my attention. I remind myself to be gracious with my time and that I can get back to my thoughts when the interruption is over.

Admittedly, this is a work in progress.

Today’s lesson: You control your emotions. Your emotions do not control you. If you take a second to think about it and acknowledge the situation (or interruption), you will likely find your emotional burst is simply a reaction. We do not have to react to emotions. We only have to respond to the moment.


Today’s Lesson: 9 Lives Left [141003]

She barfed again, this time on the bed.

I was furious, already in a bad mood, and I wanted to act out; I wanted to kick her.


It was not easy to maintain my composure and remember she did not do it intentionally. It seemed like she did. It seemed like it was just minutes after I cleaned the puke in the hallway. The worst part was, there was not even a hairball. This time, I think my cat barfed because she liked the way it made her tummy feel afterward.


The barfing is definitely the worst part of owning a cat and on a bad day, it can be a true test of compassion and patience.


Of course, this is true of lots of things that make us angry, especially things we have little control over. Traffic. Emergencies. The weather during a vacation. Stubbing your toe. And yes, a cat barfing or dog peeing on the rug.


When things like this happen, I remind myself who I am (and who I strive to be) and either turn off the emotions or choose different ones. I know the world is not out to get me. It is just the world and sometimes it is great and sometimes it is difficult.


It is certainly inconvenient to clean cat hairballs and vomit after the accompanying “hurk… herf… halurrrkkhrf…” signal the arrival of an empty stomach, but that is part of the price for having a cat. It is enticing to complain about it (I love to complain!) but I know there is no point in doing so. The barf will still be there when the complaining is done. My cat will still be cute an hour later and the carpet (or sheets in this case) will be clean.


When you know the outcome, sometimes it is easier to take the shortcut there in your mind, while the physical world catches up.


An hour later, Rainee was on my lap, purring while I petted her. What attempted hairball?




The Lesson I Learned Today… 140618

Patience is one of the best things to learn and one of the hardest things to practice.

I struggle daily with applying patience to my life. When my focus is interrupted by a message, a person, or even sometimes a random thought, I quickly become frustrated. It takes (sometimes) a lot of effort to be still, be calm, and even greater effort to be appropriately responsive.

When I am tackling a problem, I devote myself to it. Whether the problem is generating more sales, planning my week, coaching someone through an issue, or just making dinner, I tend to turn the problem over in my mind, examine likely outcomes, plan my actions, and then move toward my goal.

Even in conversation, if someone is clearly not hearing my point, I must force myself to wait for them to finish speaking and to hear them nonetheless, before moving forward.

An interruption, however, is sometimes exactly what I need. Sometimes it forces me to recalculate or provides a break to see a problem from a fresh perspective.

Even when Nicole or Rainee is seeking my attention, I must pause, check my inner anger at the interruption, and remind myself to be still, be present for a few minutes and enjoy the things in life that bring me pleasure. I am treated to many daily lessons that allow me to practice patience, presence, and attentiveness rather than single-minded focus on a task or chore that ultimately contributes far less to my life than the people (or pets) in my life.

Patience, truly, is a virtue, but it’s not the easiest one. Also, sometimes learning the virtue of patience actually happens when I remember I am not the only one who needs practice!