I recently met a fascinating group of people…exhibiting an even more fascinating behavior. Chances are you’ve met some of them, too.
They live in a city called Seattle…a place beloved by people of all ages.
I’m actually writing this while flying home from “The Emerald City” (for those who were in my presentation and just joined my blog list…welcome!).
In the less than 24 hours that I was there I realized that Seattleites have figured out a big, fat key to happiness. Most don’t even realize it.
It begins with the rain.
I know, I know…it’s cliché. Talk about Seattle, talk about the rain.
But let’s face it. Seattle’s got a reputation, right or wrong, for being a bit…shall we say…gray in the skies.
Perhaps it’s not all the time. Perhaps it’s not everywhere. But the reputation sticks nonetheless.
And during my visit, anyway, the rain was there, right on cue. I did my best to dodge it during my walk from the hotel to the convention center, ducking under every awning I could find and cursing myself for forgetting to pack an umbrella.
Then I looked around and noticed something strange. Nobody else had an umbrella either. I was perplexed.
When I got to the conference I found the first official Seattleite I could and asked her about this strange phenomenon. She shrugged, trying not to sound condescending while stating what felt like the obvious.
“People who live in Seattle just don’t use umbrellas.”
I nodded, realizing all at once that the people of Seattle have figured something out. Something wonderful.
Look around outside on a rainy day and what you’ll see are a lot of people buzzing about, walking quickly and with purpose…in clothes that keep them warm and dry…and with hairdos that do well in the rain.
What won’t you see? Cranky faces. Shaking heads. Frustrated smirks.
We must learn from Seattleites. (Myself included, as I have yet to fully grasp the point about the weather-appropriate hairdo.)
There are lots of negative, annoying things we need to deal with in life.
Many of them are things we can do something about. In fact, those who know me know that I constantly talk about recognizing the things that aren’t working in our lives and making a choice to change them…(for one example see my post: The Simple Truth That Might Freak You Out)
There are sometimes things where you just don’t have quite as much of a say:
- Families and relationships that only can relate to each other in certain ways
- Certain physical and mental traits and abilities
- Heavy traffic during our rush hour commute
Some areas will always have bitter winters, some will have tornado warnings and some will have lots of rain. The problem happens when we wake up, see the same weather we’ve always seen, and feel frustrated, surprised or unprepared.
This is how we create our own constant misery.
The sooner we come to accept that we live in tornado country…that our relationship with our brother will never be one of best buds… or that our male pattern baldness did not skip a generation…the sooner we can get down to finding happiness anyway.
Easier said than done, I know. Which is why I’ve boiled it down to a few easy steps, all based on the brilliance of Seattleites.
I present to you now…Deirdre’s three steps to being less miserable.
Umbrella Step #1: Accept it
Ask yourself…and be honest…if this situation is permanent, at least for the foreseeable future. If it is take this first step of recognizing and accepting it.
Know that certain things in life are how they will always be, and that this is one of them. (If you’re not sure, go back and read the other blog I mentioned and make a change if you can.)
Umbrella Step #2: Expect it
When you reach this step you not only accept the situation to be the case, but you know deep down that it will be. Every time.
You show up to the situation knowing that it will be a certain way…not hoping it won’t this one time because you’re late and you really need the morning commute to magically dissipate in front of you. That won’t work and you’ll just feel frustrated.
When you accept the reality as permanent and expect that it will always be the same, you can then prepare for it appropriately.
Which leads me to…
Umbrella Step #3: Adapt to It
When you can’t change a situation, you must be the one to change so that it doesn’t take its toll on you. This isn’t about being out of control. It’s about making choices to control your own fate and happiness as best you can despite the circumstances.
Find support outside of your family if you can’t get it there. Set the alarm ahead when you have an early meeting. Learn to play the piano since you won’t ever be able to sing on-key.
Or, if you live in Seattle, get some great waterproof clothes and a hairdo that works in the rain.
When you find yourself feeling frustrated or resentful about a situation, think like Seattleites think.
Ask yourself if you can change it. Be honest.
If you truly can’t, then practice the Three Umbrella Steps: accept, expect, adapt.
Sure, it’s not as easy as it sounds, but there’s nothing else you can do. Period. Permanent situations are just that.
And, in the end, you really do have control. You’re the one who decides if this stuff will make you miserable or not.
So make your choice.
Now, go do good…and do it well.
19 thoughts on “How We Create Our Constant Misery”
Great perspective on Seattle, rain and attitude. I share your thoughts about changing what you can and not complaining about what you can’t. I feel this way about my communte. It is what it is. I control what I can and then I relax into the drive. I always get to where I am going — eventually.
You are one Californian that might make it here. Great pictures, too.
I enjoyed your session.
Thanks so much for comment, Sue…and I’m with you! The commute has actually been one place where I’ve worked on this (and continue to do so). Hopefully I haven’t cut you off on the road somewhere along the way as I continue to work it out. 🙂 Like many things, these simple steps are so much easier said than done!
“Know that certain things in life are how they will always be, and that this is one of them.” Thanks for the reminder . . . needed it right now!
🙂 My pleasure! Glad you found it helpful this morning!!
As a former Vancouverite, just up from Seattle, I get the no umbrella thing. When people ask what I love about Vancouver I always say – the people – despite the rain, few carry an umbrella, they all carry on life despite the endless grey skies and they celebrate every sunny day. I appreciate your insight on the life skill they have developed that we can all learn from.
Thanks for your comment, Leanne. I think there’s an additional point to the metaphor, which you just brought up – the fact that they then celebrate every sunny day (which we know does in fact happen!). When we can accept our situations, that makes those moments when things are a bit brighter feel that much more glorious!
Deirdre, spot on as usual! The weather (or life) doesn’t go away because of how we feel about it – it just *is*. So we can put on a coat, ignore it, splash around in it! Or as the Norwegians say, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” Thanks for the great post!
Love this, Hanna…I for one think we could stand to do more of the “splashing around” option! Thanks for your comments…
Thanks for the great article Deirdre. Having lived in Seattle and several places in Alaska, I learned long ago not to let weather bother me. I also learned not to let canceled flights bother me after not being able to get where I wanted to go due to weather many times in AK, including being stuck for days a couple of times.
That attitude has recently come into play with some health issues that have everyone around me freaking out, but not me. Everyone is amazed about how unworried I seem to be, but as you point out, the problems are what they are and I can’t control them, I can only a accept them and adapt. Life will probably be different going forward, but it will still be living (for a long time).
Thanks for sharing, Tom…what a meaningful perspective. It goes to show that the attitude is what counts in so many things, big and small. Appreciate your comments and wish you all the best…
Thanks Deirdre for your great insite. Acceptance is the key. Sometimes I fight windmills until one of them hit me! then I have an “aha” moment”
My pleasure! I find those “aha moments” can also be painful in more ways than one! Thanks so much for the comment…
Hi, Dierdre! Thanks for the great post. Accept-Expect-Adapt, Accept-Expect-Adapt, almost sounds like the pitter patter of rain. 🙂 “You can only relate to one another in certain ways” with regard to family relationships hit home and it applies to the workplace as well. Thanks for the great reminders. By the way, I love Seattle weather! Enjoy it for me. Or should I say, accept, expect and adapt to it?
Hey there! Thanks for the great comments…the mantra is a bit “rain like”. 🙂 And I’m actually back in San Diego right now, so the “permanent challenges” are a bit different here! Thanks again for giving this a read Denise…
Thanks for the great reminder to focus on what is in our sphere of control. Your 3 step process together with Nietzsche’s rule – that which does not kill us makes us stronger – are my recipe for increasing happiness. 😉
Love the quote form Nietzsche…once we transcend the permanent stuff and find happiness we know we can tackle more and more! Thanks for this, Heidi!
As a Vancouver-ite (with weather identical to Seattle) I know what you are saying about accepting and adapting. There are so many things in our lives that we cannot change but continue to gripe about instead of changing our attitude about them. I’m going to take your advice and get better at embracing circumstances that are out of my control instead of fighting against them all the time.
Thanks for this, Natasha! The weather feels like a clear example, but I agree that there are so many things in our lives that fit this issue. Glad you enjoyed the post!
Never easy, but always good advice. I think there is one more thought here… if you really can’t accept, expect, and adapt then maybe change the circumstances in a way you can. Just like you say, we are in control of the decisions we make and the world around us. We are very blessed to have these opportunities – use them to your advantage. Thanks, Deirdre!