Getting Everything You Want and Being Pissed About It


My parking garage empties out into an alley behind my apartment building. I live in downtown Santa Monica, so it's a pretty tight fit between a bunch of apartment complexes and both big and small stores. The alley is used by those of us who live in the buildings for parking, for deliveries to the stores (West Elm and Pottery Barn in particular), and for utility access. There's also been construction directly across the alley on a new building for the entire year that I've lived here. 

The gym classes that I attend are in the mornings at 9:30. The gym is just under 2 miles from my house, so usually if I leave around 9:15 that gets me to the gym at about 9:25. Recently, the addition of a boxing class to my 9:30am gym schedule means that I also need to factor in some extra time to wrap my wrists before class, so I've been leaving around 9:05. This is going somewhere, I promise. 

For the last few weeks, each time I leave my house in the morning the alley is a total, and this is a technical term, clusterfuck. Without fail I wind up behind a garbage truck collecting trash, or West Elm and Pottery Barn would stagger their delivery trucks on either side of the alley making it nearly impossible to sneak through, or, as it's been the last few days, they're ripping up all of the concrete to do something with the utilities. Between this alley mess and general traffic, I kept rolling into class right as it starts or late, feeling rude and rushed. I was pissed that even though I was trying to give myself enough time, it was never enough time to actually get there on time. And, to make me even angrier, it kept happening day after day. 

Awareness was the first step, and after literally sitting in my alley for 20 minutes one morning trying to get to the gym, I knew I needed to change my approach. I hated feeling rushed, rude, and like a spaz, so I decided that I'd leave the house the next morning before 9am. So, one fateful Thursday morning before boxing class, I headed to the elevator and made it to my car 3 floors underground by 8:55am. 

Getting out of the parking garage was a cinch. I checked the mirrors to enter the alley, and, to my surprise, it was completely empty. There wasn't a utility crew, delivery truck, construction dumpster, or garbage truck in sight. I cruised through the alley, and upon entering the street, I made a difficult turn without any traffic. I caught the light right by my house, then every light down Fourth Street, which was also mysteriously empty. Even where Fourth Street crosses Los Angeles's infamous "The Ten" freeway, there wasn't a car or red light to be found. I pulled up to the gym at 9:08am. 

I was pissed. Thoughts raced through my head, "Are you freaking serious? The ONE DAY I give myself so much time to get here, and there's not a single hold up!? Of course that would happen..." 

What? This makes no sense. I caught myself in the moment. Hold up, gurrrl. I literally got exactly what I wanted. I set out to get to the gym without being late or held up, and that's exactly what happened. This was victim thinking at work. Instead of being grateful to myself for identifying a problem, committing to a solution, and then getting blessed by the Los Angeles traffic gods to get to my class on time, I decided to throw a pity party because things went too well. NONSENSE. I was looking for reasons to feel victimized and on the whim of the nefarious world, and I was determined to find them --- SO I FOUND THEM EVEN WHEN I GOT EXACTLY WHAT I WANTED. 

It was never about the thing I wanted. It was my mindset and thought patterns falling back into a negative, victimy, and lazy groove. It was about feeling like shit no matter the outcome, and rationalizing my shitty reaction. It was a choice to be empty and pissed off rather than fulfilled and happy for the outcome - whatever it may be. 

I quickly changed my tone. Felt gratitude for myself, felt gratitude to the LA traffic gods, felt gratitude for getting to the gym safely and quickly, felt excitement at the added opportunity to chat extra with my coach and fellow boxers, and my day turned around. Interesting side note, if not for this whole little episode, my coach wouldn't have told me that he was interested in becoming Totem's first Ambassador. 

Shifted mindset = more open to opportunity. Better mindset and thought process = ability to see the awesomeness standing right in front of you. 

What I've learned over and over again is that if you're doing something on the micro, you're definitely doing it on the macro too. What I mean is, how you think about the day to day stuff you encounter shapes the big picture life stuff you're trying to build and create. So if you're getting pissy about traffic, you're definitely getting pissy about your love life, career, businesses, friendships, diet...whatever. 

It's important to learn how to observe and track your own feelings, behaviors, and emotional responses in real time, so that you can figure out when you're operating against your own best interest. The easiest, most in your face way to do this is to watch how you handle simple day to day tasks, bumps in the road, and mild annoyances. It's hard to zoom out and see how your thought processes and reactions might be sabotaging your big picture goals, but you have nearly constantly opportunity to see what you're doing in the minutia of your life. 

There's a saying that goes around that says, "How you do one thing is how you do all things." Although I think there's some limitations to this, context matters, it is just an aphorism after all, I think it holds some merit when it comes to your emotional responses to situations. Without realizing it, you might be sabotaging long term efforts for short term self-righteousness or victimhood, which might feel like a victory in the moment but will leave you feeling empty, hopeless, and apathetic long term. All of which then validates your short sighted reactions and continues the cycle of pity parties and being miserable no matter what outcome you might create for yourself. 

Fixing this underlying thought process is critical to happiness, fulfillment, and a joyful life. You can get everything you want and the lights might all be in your favor, but if you have a shitty mindset you'll still be pissed and empty once you have it. On the contrary, if you shift your mindset to find ways to support and love yourself and the opportunities in the world, not only will things you want come more easily, but once you have them you'll feel amazing about it. Content, even. It's a choice - choose to be empower yourself or choose to blame, project, be angry, and victimize yourself. 

This is all a long way of saying: Keeping an eye on day to day reactions, behaviors, and emotional knee jerks can often paint a clearer picture of the same reactions, behaviors, and knee jerks that are actually guiding your big picture goals. Then, once you identify what you're doing that's holding you back, you can adjust accordingly. Finally, once you realize that starting with gratitude is the key, you'll always be happy for what you create for yourself. If you start with a victim mindset, the thing you're chasing or building will never bring you what you think it will.