When starting with a new client, I first ask them about what’s really important to them.
I’m usually met with honest, and yet somewhat flat, answers… almost as though people are saying what they think they SHOULD say as opposed to what is deeply true for them.
I then move on to what really annoys them; what are their biggest pet peeves?
They often looked puzzled at first, but then the answers usually come pouring out and out and out! This is because we often have a clearer connection to what irritates than what inspires.
The things I hear range from specifics like water stains on dishes even after you’ve washed them, to dealing with types of people (selfish is a big one) and situations such as people cutting-the-line (whether for an exit off the freeway, or a COVID-19 vaccine) and everything thing in between.
My intent with the question is not to change what annoys someone—or at least not at first—but rather to flip people’s pet peeves around to see what these aggravations mean about their value system (the core beliefs that guide someone and dictate how they operate in the world).
Something might tick us off because whatever it is transgresses against what we hold dear, and as such these things will likewise be inexorably connected to our vulnerabilities.
Having clarity around this is life-changing. When our choices reflect what we naturally care about, and we are stronger and can successfully avoid and manage both people and situations tailor-made to trigger us.
So, let’s go back to the examples above…
With the water spots, for instance, if that’s you, you may value order or beauty in your life and want your efforts to such create things to be fruitful. Don’t judge yourself for this (or let others do the same). Instead lean in and enjoy the neat and tidy world you want, while also coming to terms with the fact that they world isn’t going to fall apart if your world isn’t straight out of Mr. Clean commercial.
Also, and perhaps most important for one’s happiness and connection with others, is knowing that not everyone shares the same values and expecting them to do will set you up for resentment. Your partner/kid/co-worker/neighbor isn’t actively trying to undermine you with their clutter. They may just not value order as you do.
Now to the second example, loathing selfish people and or those who cut lines (literally or metaphorically). It is most likely because you value equality and feel that equal benefit should come from equal effort.
While knowing that fairness is the root of why these things upset you so much, the knowledge alone may not make you feel better witnessing it, however thinking what about you can do to embody this value in your everyday life will.
So, instead of focusing on how wrong it is, see if there a volunteer or support opportunity with a nonprofit such as Meals on Wheels, LA Food Bank, or First Five California. Making sure everyone has equal access to healthy food and education will help you feel aligned with your values and less likely to be triggered by the inequalities all around us.
And similar to the tidiness-obsessed variety who must understand that not everyone who is a slob means to undermine divine order, knowing that when people are looking out for themselves, they may not in fact be acting selfish in the traditional sense.
Perhaps there is a viable reason that they secured that vaccine appointment, or maybe that person cutting you off in traffic is on their way to a job interview and they had car trouble.
Bottom line, think about what really gets under your skin and then flip it around. See what’s really there and start living your life in alignment with the values you discover while at the same time realizing not everyone will share these same fundamentals. Your peace of mind will thank you for it.