Yesterday, I set a reminder for myself to take a break from work to go move the car. If you don’t own a car in New York City, you might not be familiar with the concept of “alternate side parking (ASP).” Essentially, it means that if you park your car on the street, you will have to move it for approximately two hours, one day a week so the street sweeper can clean up your block. Finding parking in NYC is a challenge on the best of days, but if you’re looking for a spot on the day that your neighborhood has ASP it’s close to impossible.
But, shuffling the car around is one of those “inconvenience taxes” I pay for the luxury of living in this incredible city, so at 11:30am I dutifully went out to move the car. After driving away from my cozy parking spot and not seeing any cars double parked to accommodate the street sweeper, a doubt popped into my head: was ASP suspended today?
When ASP is suspended, it’s like a holiday. The street sweeper doesn’t come because it’s some obscure or religious holiday. You get to leave your car right where it is with no threat of a parking ticket. It is glorious!
I pulled over, put on my flashers, and consulted Google. Sure enough, ASP was suspended and here I was, wasting my time moving the car, and now there wasn’t a single parking spot anywhere to be found. I started fuming. Why didn’t my fiance check for ASP suspension before he asked me to move the car this morning? Why didn’t I think to check before moving the car? My schedule is packed, I could have used this time to get shit done!
I know this is a ridiculous (and very privileged) example of something going awry, but many of the inconveniences that contribute to chronic stress and frustration are caused by the little, everyday things. Not being able to find your keys/sunglasses/umbrella when you leave the house in the morning. Someone canceling a meeting at the last minute. Lunch spilling in your bag during the morning commute. Missing the bus or train. The “guaranteed by delivery date” comes and goes with no delivery. Little things have the potential to derail our day, throw us off our game, and leave us in a funk, but it doesn’t have to be this way. If you can reframe these little inconveniences they’ll have less of an effect on your day to day morale AND you will build your resilience and coping skills for when real problems arise. Here are a few ways to reframe the inconveniences in your day.
Learn to laugh at them
Have you ever been in a situation where something went horribly or ironically wrong and thought to yourself, “This is going to be a very funny story when it’s over?” Me too. The nice thing about inconvenient situations is that they can be funny in the moment. They’re just not that serious, so go ahead, throw up your hands in surrender and laugh at your little misfortune.
Have a teaching moment with yourself
When I went to move the car yesterday, I missed a lot of little signs that should have raised red flags for me. None of the other cars on the block were moved. There weren’t any cars double parked on the alternate side of the street. Whether its a lesson to pay more attention, to better prepare, or to plan for contingencies in the future, there’s a lesson in this mishap. What can you learn from it?
Use the moment to hone your problem-solving abilities
I believe some of our most creative thinking happens when things don’t go as planned. We’re forced to think quickly and outside of the box to set things right. Pause, take a breath and deal with the situation. Your ability to problem-solve quickly in this moment will make you better able to deal with more serious issues.
Embrace mistakes & a lack of control
As much as I would like to deny it, we do not have total control. We can plan, prep, organize, study, and work like crazy and some things will still be out of our control. In the case of the inconveniences we bring on ourselves, we’ve made a mistake. Even the most accomplished and talented among us make mistakes. It is what it is, and it’s ok.
Give yourself kudos for handling it like a champ
Something went wrong today, and you didn’t have a meltdown, didn’t let it ruin your mood, dealt with it, and moved on. High five! We don’t give ourselves enough credit for the things we do well every day. Instead, most of us tend to focus on the mistake, the mishap, or everything we didn’t accomplish. Let’s try and change that, starting with giving yourself a kudos for bouncing back.