This Is Making Your Life Harder

I’m in my office, on the phone to HMRC. I’ve been waiting for 30 minutes, automated messages repeatedly interrupting the musak, giving me hope that an actual human might be about to speak to me… but no. More waiting. Then finally, a real person. Who tells me she can’t help and I have to phone a different number to discuss this issue.

Frustration. Impatience. Exasperation. They’re making my life harder.

What situation in your life is currently accompanied by the mental soundtrack, “This is making my life harder”?

Perhaps someone hasn’t replied to your message and consequently it’s harder to arrange plans.

Maybe someone has asked you to do something and you’ve got the dilemma of whether to say “no” truthfully or “yes” to keep the peace. If only they hadn’t asked, this wouldn’t be so hard!

It could be the train is delayed which means you miss your appointment. Or your child isn’t doing what they’re told, or your partner isn’t pulling their weight around the house.

Or maybe it’s something seemingly outside of human control: the weather, Corona virus, mice in the kitchen, your ovarian reserve, your baby’s position in the womb.

How do we work with this mental soundtrack?

The challenge is that the thought feels completely factual. Yes, this is making life harder! Without this happening, life would be easier! Better! Everything would run more smoothly!

The frustration can be immense. It shouldn’t be this hard! the mind screams. Yet the reality is: life is happening exactly this way. And it seems there’s nothing we can do about it.

But there is something we can do about our experience. Here’s one key I’ve found that opens a doorway out of the anger, exasperation and powerlessness.

When you hear your mind telling you, This is making life harder, ask yourself these three words:

Harder than what?

The answer might come: Well, harder than it should be! Harder than it needs to be! Harder than I want it to be!

But then ask yourself:

And where does that life exist? That easier, smoother life?

The truth is: that life exists only in your mind. It’s a mental construct, fabricated.

And it’s the comparison between the fictional easier life and real life that hurts. The comparison is what makes the situation feel frustrating.

Without the comparison, there is no concept of “harder”. The notion of “harder” needs something to contrast with in order to have meaning.

Let’s go back to my phone call with HMRC. With the story, This is making life harder, my jaw is clenched, I’m annoyed, I don’t want to be on the phone anymore, I’m arguing with reality.

But if I don’t compare that moment with how I believe my morning should be going, where’s the problem? In reality, I’m a woman sitting in a chair, there’s some music playing down the phone to me, and I can tidy up my paperwork for these minutes. Is there actually a problem with this moment? Other than my mind telling me this moment is harder than it should be, am I okay?

If I drop the comparison with how I thought my morning would go, or how I wanted my morning to go, “harder” doesn’t compute. The word doesn’t make sense without contrast.

And I could go one step further. I could choose a different point of comparison. I could see that this moment is waaaaay easier than being under a surgeon’s knife, or in a war zone, or at my child’s funeral. I could notice everything that’s easy about this moment, in contrast to everything that would be harder.

Try this out today.

When you find your mind telling you that something or someone is making your life harder, ask yourself: Harder than what?

I’d love to know how you get on; leave a comment below to start or join the discussion.

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