“A wise man should never fear losing his wealth if he does it for the love of tranquillity,” taught the Roman philosopher Epictetus two thousand years ago. Nowadays, each of us can easily make a long list of situations that we would be delighted to exchange for increased peace of mind.
- Would you consider yourself happier if it was in your power to avoid dealing with nasty people altogether?
- How much emotional discomfort could you spare if you never had to listen to unwanted criticism ever again?
- Would your days be easier if you never had to push yourself to comply with silly rules?
One can only wonder why this sort of things are never taught at school. Every little elephant in the savannah knows how important it is to grow a healthy thick skin for protection against weather inclemencies, viruses, and infections. In the same way, human beings need to develop a sound mental armour against the inevitable frictions of social life.
Here are two low-cost techniques that you can use to build up a psychological protection layer as thick as the rugged skin of an elephant:
1.- PLAY DUMB AND LET THEM SUCCUMB. When some company or private individual demands you to comply with ridiculous requirements and you are not in a hurry, this is the perfect way to play. Don't get angry. Don't argue. Don't react with indignation.
Instead, pretend that your brain needs hours to absorb the simplest information, and stall. Very often, people will succumb to their own impatience, give up their ludicrous expectations, and let you alone.
2.- SHRUG YOUR SHOULDERS AND DON'T LET TROUBLE MAKE YOU OLDER. Occasionally, for professional or other reasons, you won't be able to escape nasty, unfair criticism, threats, or warnings. Don't let them ruin your day. Remember that it is great that people are free to express their opinions even if they don't know what they are talking about.
Put on your best poker face, say that you take note, and walk on. As soon as you turn the corner and are out of sight of the moaner, shrug your shoulders and don't let anxiety make you older.
If your calling is to devote the rest of your life to render the world less irrational by changing the ways of millions of men and women, please go ahead without me. Many have tried for centuries and little has been achieved.
For this reason, let's start small and focus on people whose name we can recall. As Epictetus observed, "some men find joy in fishing, others in hunting, but for me, there is no greater pleasure than learning to live with measure.”
[Image by exfordy under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]