A Formula for Calm

I had a phone conversation last week with a friend in Virginia. I was particularly irritated by some delays in getting the new book published. After grumbling and growling for a few minutes, I apologized and steered things back to happier topics.

Toward the end of the call, my friend ventured a toe into the Unsolicited Advice Waters. These are tricky currents for even the most enduring relationships, so diplomacy was at an all time high.

Me being The Blunt One, I encouraged him to just spit it out and say what was on his mind. My feelings can get hurt, but if I learn something that can be beneficial, I’m usually willing to hear bad news or less than pleasant suggestions.

‘You might want to be more selective about pisses you off,’ my friend stated plainly. ‘You can get upset about anything. And everybody gets upset about something. It’s just a question how high you want to set your irritation threshold. The bigger people in the world don’t allow themselves to get upset by the smaller things in the world. The size of the person is often the size of what upsets them.’

I thought about that, when he said it, and afterwards. My friend, irritatingly enough, was a fine example of this: he rarely lost his cool, and only over important things, and for a very short period of time. Then he seems to recalibrate back to ‘tranquil’ mode. And this guy is not a clerk at the local grocery store. He has some big calls to make in this job. The source is as solid as the advice.

So one of my new year’s resolutions is to elevate my irritation threshold. To tweak my formula for calm. Not sweat the small stuff. Save my energy for the big issues.

Right now, I’m looking at this ink stain that’s inexplicably appeared on my shirt cuff. And my lip is curling into a snarl.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

  • BGT

24 thoughts on “A Formula for Calm

  1. Wonderful advice worth trying myself; let your friend know for me it hasn’t fallen on deaf ear and thank you BGT for sharing.

  2. I admire those who remain cool as a cucumber. When I get irritated about something, I try to focus on what is causing me to be so angry. Usually it is fear of something- not enough money to fix a problem, fear of looking foolish, fear of not being able to keep my word due to things outside my control. Following back my thought process and why I am reacting or over-reacting helps me to calm down. At one point in life, I was totally broke and working three jobs. I got angry at everything and acted ridiculous, but I understand now how scared I was (and probably sleep-deprived).

    1. I too am the same way Elle. Wonderful you’re able to understand the source of your frustration, intellectualize and attempt to solve it. It takes an emotionally intelligent person to be able to do that.

  3. Hi Byron. Good advice for all of us. It has gotten easier to stay more calm and less frustrated as I get older. You seem to understand what becomes really important in life with age. But geez, why do we have to become old to become smart. It think that’s another of my pet peeves, and I’ll have to “elevate my irritation threshold” as well. Happy New Year!

  4. Over time I developed a method for staying calm. I read an interesting book on comparative religions. Taoism, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Confucianism, Buddhism and Christianity. Each one of the religions has a major prophet (I’m not indicating the names in this post out of respect) who we as a people would be changed if we met face to face. When I am faced with a situation that makes we want to loose my temper – I refer myself to what I learned about each of the religions and 10 times out 10 the answer is not to lose my temper by doing NOTHING . Why ? Well the situation I am in a can be a learning experience for my next life, If I do something I may generate a reaction sometime in the future, I could turn the other cheek or just sit quietly clear my mind and work on achieving satori

    1. That’s a unique perspective on handling frustration Bob! Using your faith as a solution. I recently read a few books on stoicism to handle stressful situations that come about in my life. Like you, faith maintains peace of mind. Much more effective than an unwise reaction to stress. Happy New Year Bob =)

  5. For me, regular exercise and reading provide more self-control. From a book I’ve read decades ago, one particular idea stuck in my mind: most humans live on autopilot, vassals of their emotions. Not surprisingly, there’s a striking resemblance with chimpanzees. Anything unusual, even when harmless, can cause uproar.

    By contrast, one can think of the mind as a biocomputer, something one has (or can have) control of. That’s the subject of “Programming and Metaprogramming in the Human Biocomputer”, by John C. Lilly.

    I wish you a healthy and happy New Year!

  6. Wonderful post and an excellent New Year’s resolution. I think there have been so many upsetting things in the world lately that the upsets in my small life have become minuscule by comparison, but worry about the big things permeates my life. I majored in philosophy my first time through university and remember the “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius as transformative — along with “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” by Thomas Kuhn for understanding how modes of thought take time to disappear from society even when proved false, and trusting that eventually they will run their course. I’ve returned to these writings in the past year and found solace. Exercise, as JL mentioned, also works wonders. Along with, of course, making your life as simple as you have to in order to get enough sleep. I have never achieved that one, but I continue to try.

  7. F.W. De Klerk, the last apartheid president in SA and who handed over to Nelson Mandela was once asked in a radio interview if there was anything he didn’t like about himself.

    He replied “ yes, whenever I lose my temper, I feel I have lost my dignity. “

    Sage words worth remembering.

  8. My daughter and I had a similar conversation recently about “not sweating the small things” and you probably know what happened when another “small thing” happened… I have more work to do in 2019.

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