How a Cup of Coffee Can Ruin Your Day

Danielle left the house with just five minutes to spare. It would have been better if she had left ten or fifteen minutes early because she wanted to stop and buy a cup of coffee. She decided that she could probably get in and out of the coffee house within seven minutes and that being just two minutes late to work was perfectly acceptable. Then Danielle drove to the coffee house.

When Danielle arrived at the coffee house the line seemed manageable. But quickly Danielle was able to see that she was going to be late. The line was moving slowly and it seemed to be because there was a new employee working the counter. Danielle became impatient. She became agitated. She really wanted that cup of coffee and she really hated being late to work. She became angry. All kinds of angry thoughts went through her mind. “Why are they training a new employee in the middle of the rush? If it were not for this new person, I would not be late. This is so annoying.”

Danielle was impatient because her time in the coffee shop was not going according to her original plan. Impatience does arise when our reality does not match our expectations. Danielle expected to be able to purchase a cup of coffee within seven minutes. The reality was that Danielle was not going to be out the door within seven minutes and she needed to make a choice, leave with no coffee or stay and be more than two minutes late to the office. Her impatience led to frustration and then anger. If she lets it, this might ruin Danielle’s day. Danielle was in conflict.

What could Danielle have done differently? Of course she could have left the house earlier. Even if she had, she still might have encountered a scenario that did not map to her expectations. Once Danielle realized that things were not going according to her plan, she did not have to become frustrated and angry. She could have stepped back (mentally) and assessed the situation and accepted it. In this instance she could not change reality; she could not make the line move more quickly. Her frustration and anger were all very human; but not the only possible response.

When faced with impatience and frustration you can become angry or you can accept the situation for what it is. If you can mentally stand back and accept the situation, you will spare yourself the unpleasant effects of anger. The stress that anger induces, the behaviors that anger can cause (you know those things you wish you had not said or done) and that horrible anger hangover.

Know that accepting your current situation does not mean to be a door mat. It does not mean that you should not try to instigate change where it is possible. It means that understanding and accepting your current circumstance can take you directly to moving beyond those circumstances toward a more positive outcome. It means that you can accept how things are, define how things should be and then focus your energy on productive change.