Look for your own shortcomings

When someone irritates us, we usually focus on changing the situation. If our spouse annoys us, we explain to them what they are doing wrong, and ask them to stop. If someone’s whistling distracts us in the library, we move to a different spot. In both these examples, the aim is to remove the source of our irritation. However, although this external approach to annoyances is effective in the short term, it is ineffective in the long term.

The problem is that there will always be people and events that can irritate us. If we keep trying to remove these irritations, we will be engaged in a never ending battle. A better approach is to focus on our own shortcomings. Two things must occur to make us angry: 1) someone does something hurtful or annoying, and 2), we allow ourselves to react. By learning to control our reactions, we can bring more peace into our lives, regardless of what other people do or say. This is much more effective than trying to deal with every external irritation on a case by case basis.

The foundation of this strategy is that any situation in which we get upset is also a chance to learn. If something irritates us, it is a reminder to be more patient or tolerant. If someone unfairly criticises, it is still a chance to look for any grain of truth in what they said. In any bad situation in which someone else is to blame, we can still look for our own contribution. It may be 90% their fault and just 10% ours, but there is still something we can learn. This attitude helps us to make the most of a situation, instead of just complaining about it.

Naturally, we do not have to passively accept blame for everything bad that happens to us. Looking for our own shortcomings does not mean that we can’t rebuke someone else for their incompetence. However, it is important to learn as much as we can from every situation. Because if we ever lose our peace of mind, then we could have done things better. Hence, any distressing situation is a chance to learn.

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