A friend and I were in a car the other day; my friend was driving. Another car suddenly tried to cut us off, honked at us, and raced ahead of us. The whole process took no longer than 10 seconds, but my friend spent the next half hour venting anger. The driver was surely rude, and I bet a lot of people would be angry too if something like this happened to them. However, I thought, why let 10 seconds of unpleasantness bother you for another half an hour? Your anger can’t do anything to hostile drivers, so why waste energy being angry? Maybe the driver was in a hurry or maybe he had a type A personality that makes him want to do everything faster. A broader and more objective way of describing what happened was that the driver’s lifestyle did not align well with ours–we valued peace and order, while he valued time and speed.
Recognizing that conflicts are often caused by different lifestyles and embracing–or at least seeking to understand–those values that deviate from our own is a great way to build resilience. I am not saying that we should ignore disruptive behavior, but that when our anger and frustration will do nothing to change bad behaviors, we should learn to let it be. If we see someone cut in line, we can walk up and tell them it isn’t the right thing to do. However, if the person is gone already, why let such a small incident bother us? We should tell ourselves that it’s just another conflict of lifestyles. Instead of wasting energy on having negative emotions, looking for actions we can take to change the situation is a much more resilient and productive alternative. And if no actions can be taken, just let go.
Moreover, certain behaviors annoy us not because they are harmful, but because they don’t meet our expectations. For example, some of us think students are supposed to work hard and get good grades, so we often consider those students who do not put enough effort into their studies less capable. However, we need to recognize that others might have a different view, and that others may not see the importance of grades the same way that we do. Others may prioritize other things, such as networking or extracurricular activities, over academics, and may not care about grades as much. We cannot force our values onto other people. Recognizing and appreciating others’ values helps broaden our thoughts.
Embracing others’ lifestyles and values can save us from wasting energy worrying about random and irrelevant things. More importantly, it helps build resilience. The concept of accepting different values is an example of the Flexible: Thoughts component of personal resilience, also known as Creativity. When we start seeking to understand and appreciate others’ lifestyles and thoughts, we become more open-minded. With this openness, we are also giving ourselves more space to build creativity. When changes happen, we will have a larger pool of thoughts to draw from. This contributes to our ability to live more resilient lives and become happier.