As human beings, we tend to spend a fair amount of time feeling upset about one thing or another. As being upset is typically not the most pleasant way to spend the afternoon, I try to keep perspective by dividing anything that might upset me into one of three categories: problems, concerns, and annoyances.
- A problem is an imminent threat that if it goes poorly it could significantly effect your life or the life of someone you care about one year from now.
- A concern is a threat that if it goes poorly it could significantly effect your life or the life of someone you care about one year from now, but it is not imminent. It could occur but it probably won’t occur.
- An annoyance is anything that if it goes poorly will not affect your life a year from now.
Here are some distinctions:
- My spouse has been diagnosed with Stage 3 Cancer.
- My company just had layoffs. I wasn’t in this round of layoffs but we expect more layoffs later this month.
- My spouse has unhealthy eating habits.
- My company may do poorly if the economy takes a downturn.
- My spouse didn’t do the dishes last night.
- My co-worker messed up at work so now I have to work all weekend.
Most of us spend much of our time getting ourselves all worked up over annoyances. Yes, annoyances are annoying but they won’t kill us. Annoyances aren’t worth the mental anguish of upsetting ourselves. We just need to tell ourselves that in the long run, it doesn’t make any difference then just get past it without wasting our mental energy.
For concerns we should spend some mental energy to try to make sure our concerns don’t become problems or to mitigate the problems if they do occur. For example, we might prepare healthier meals or learn a new job skill that could be useful if your current job goes away. We should not waste our mental energy getting upset over things that are unlikely to occur.
Save your mental energy for the true problems in life, the ones that count. And if by some chance you are at a time in your life that you don’t have problems, just concerns and annoyances, take a moment to savor it. We tend to get so caught up in our annoyances and concerns that we forget to appreciate the times our lives are truly blessed.