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Happiness Project: Accept the change.

Posted Jul 25 2008 2:15am

Hourglass2I’m working on my Happiness Project, andyou should have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in -- no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.

One common source of unhappiness for people is the failure to accept that some social norm has changed.

For example, a friend of mine dislikes seeing people talking on their cell phones. Even when they’re speaking quietly on the street, just seeing them on the phone bugs him; he doesn’t think people should speak on the phone in public. Another friend is appalled every time she gets an invitation by email.

This problem hits me with the issue of security measures. Going through airport security exasperates me tremendously – also, having my bag examined before I enter a public building, like the New York Public Library.

The last time I was home in Kansas City, my mother and I were doing errands, and she wanted to stop by my father’s office and pick something up from him. She pulled up by the curb, so I could just run up to the fifteenth floor and get it, but as soon as I jumped out, I stuck my head back in the car.

“What’s the problem?” she asked.

“I don’t have my wallet.”

“You don’t need your wallet!”

“But I don’t have any I.D. with me.”

My mother couldn’t believe that in New York, you have to show identification to enter most large office buildings. It’s so very annoying.

I’m not arguing that people should talk on their cell phones on the street, or not; or that we should stop sending proper paper invitations through the U.S. mail, or not; or that we should abandon security measure altogether, or not.

The fact is, whatever a person might think,the social norms have changed, and people WILL talk on their cell phones, and they will send email invitations, and they will expect to check your bag, take your photo, and write down your name. And life is too short to keep railing about it.

I decided that unless I wanted to become an active, purposeful agent of change, I just had to accept the situation gracefully. Constant grousing just fans the flames of irritation, and to complain about matters that most people find acceptable is iself an annoying trait. As Samuel Johnson observed, “To hear complaints is wearisome alike to the wretched and the happy.”

Is there any recent change in social norms that bugs you? Have you found a way not to let it get under your skin?


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