The same reason most of us get stressed: frustrated expectations. Rob had an important call to make and his cell phone wasn't working. He was experiencing the gap between what he expected to happen and what was actually happening. That's the underlying cause of stress and it's afflicting us more these days than ever because our expectations keep rising, thanks in part to exponential improvements in our technology.
So what can you do about the stress and frustration that
comes from unmet expectations? You have two choices: Either change the reality
around you or change your expectations.
Trying to change reality isn't usually a stress reliever,
it's a stress creator. A small thing — like changing a seat on an
airplane — can be such a pain that even if it works it's often not worth the
struggle. And the bigger things — like getting more accomplished in a day — can
be even more frustrating.
Which leaves us with the best
strategy for reducing stress: Change your expectations. In other words, get used to not getting what you want. I know
this isn't consistent with the kind of go-get-'em attitude most of us have been
taught to embrace. But most of the time, fighting reality is not worth the
effort. Either you can't change what's around you, or the fight is more
stressful than the reward. If changing your expectations proves too hard, your next best
move is to get some perspective.
Imagine a scale from 1-10 with 10 being the worst reality
you can imagine. Like living in a war zone or being in the World Trade Center on
9/11. Maybe 9 is a serious illness that most probably will result in death.
Perhaps 8 is something that will forever alter your life, like going to jail or
an accident that puts you in a wheelchair. Let's say 7 is something that
temporarily alters your life like losing your job or having to move out of a
home you can no longer afford.
Almost everything we freak out about is somewhere in the 1-2
range of dashed expectations. In other words, our moods and our stress levels
are determined by events that actually matter remarkably little.
So sit back, take a deep breath, and put things in the proper perspective.