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Can the bad weather really make us grumpy?

May 31, 2021

Mayday! Mayday!

Unbelievably, as I type, the forecast for the coming Bank Holiday Monday, is sunshine. For some at least. I know, I know, I sound terribly British when I talk about the weather, but you have to admit, sunshine on a Bank Holiday Monday is a bit like hen’s teeth – rare.

This month has been coined ‘miserable May’ due to the unseasonable amount of rain we’ve had, so a bit of sunshine is a welcome reprieve. Apparently, the UK as a whole has already had around 11% more than its average monthly rainfall, not to mention the fact it’s been the wettest May for five years. 

And don’t we get frustrated when we have a run of what many might call ‘bad weather’?! I have to admit to being one of those this past week. Waiting outside the school for my daughter, I had a thick puffer coat on and the obligatory wellies, which will soon need to be surgically removed… I heard myself saying to a fellow parent: ‘I am getting a bit peeved now with these dismal days. It’s gone on for too long now and if things don’t improve, it’s starting to get a bit much…’ Blah blah blah. Even as I said it, I could hear a voice in my head say: ‘Really Kirsty? You’re going to witter on about the weather?! Get over yourself.’

Rock steady

It’s something we cannot do anything about. What we can do is to choose to intelligently navigate our thinking around it. On the Winning Edge course, we call the weather, the passing of time and other people’s attitudes and behaviour- a ‘lighthouse’, because it’s a great metaphor for something we can do nothing about. The urban myth illustrates this so brilliantly:

A battleship is out on manoeuvres. The weather turns bad, the sea is rough and fog descends. The Captain is on the bridge. He receives a message: “We can just make out a light on the starboard bow Captain.” He says, “Is it steady or moving astern?” “It’s steady Captain.” “Then send this message: ‘We are on collision course, move twenty degrees’.” A message comes back: “You move twenty degrees.” The Captain is irritated and says: “Send this message: ‘I am a Captain, move twenty degrees now’.” A message comes back: “I am an Able Seaman.  You move twenty degrees.” The Captain is furious and says, “Send this message: ‘I am a battleship, move twenty degrees now’.” The message that comes back is very simple: “I am a lighthouse!”

The Captain of the Battleship could do absolutely nothing about the lighthouse. He needed to change course. Just as we can do absolutely nothing about the amount of rain that falls, or how cold it is. Rather than keep banging our boat against the rocks, we can keep our boat intact i.e., our sanity, by choosing to think different more helpful thoughts.

For what’s the alternative? We wake up in the morning and see that there’s another downpour. But why constantly moan when it’s something we cannot change? What kind of a day are we setting ourselves up for? Not a particularly happy one.

You see, what’s the point in constantly bemoaning the weather? I absolutely appreciate that some arrangements are not able to be adapted and the rain can mean things get cancelled; and it can feel like a constant dampener on things – a bit of sunshine can completely change our perspective of the day. However, to wind ourselves up about something we have absolutely no control over whatsoever, is futile.

Yet aren’t there so many things in life that we metaphorically bang our boats against?

Our birthday that we dread – how can it be another year already?! The government not working quickly enough to prevent climate change; past events we regret or feel we were done wrong by. Lighthouses. Things we cannot do anything about, except to change the way we choose to think about them. To constantly fret, worry, and moan doesn’t change the situation, we just get ourselves riled up.

Sure, have a whinge, then move on. Think a different thought. Not always easy, but surely better for our mental health.

Irritation for the nation

There are very few true lighthouses. So, it’s really important to appreciate what is a lighthouse and what isn’t. And something I often quote – The Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change those I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

When we know the difference between what we can and cannot change, we take back the control – the control of the direction of our thoughts, and we can refocus our energy on the things we can do something about.

Lighthouses are not to be confused with irritants. Irritants you can do something about. Irritants are those day-to-day things we wind ourselves up about. They seem to get right on our pip yet still we dedicate energy to thinking and talking about them. Sometimes we’ll allow them to get right under our skin and our annoyance is quite visceral. Such are the knots we can tie ourselves up in.

Perhaps you recognise some of these:

  • Your partner doesn’t load the dishwasher properly
  • Middle lane drivers hogging the road
  • Your kids play their music too loud
  • The neighbours won’t fix the fence, even though it’s on their side
  • People park in the designated family spaces in the supermarket car park – when they’ve no young children in tow.

 Here’s an interesting diagram for you:

 Circles of Influence

This diagram represents the things we can and cannot do something about in life that we find concerning/annoying/disappointing. A lot of people spend much of their time in the Circle of Concern.  They spend their time talking, worrying, lamenting about things that are totally out of their control.  You’ll hear them say: “Isn’t it terrible that people are starving in the world?” “Isn’t it terrible that countries are stopping refugees entering?” “Isn’t it terrible the low pay Nurses receive?”

The question to ask yourself is: can you expand your Circle of Influence and do something about it? Start working for a charity to raise awareness? Write to your local MP.  Join a demonstration and wave a placard outside Parliament. What is a genuine lighthouse and what can you actually do something about?

For you have three courses of action:

  • Change the way you think about it.
  • Change your process / what you do.
  • OR carry on complaining.

People with high self-esteem and self-respect do something about it and expand their Circle of Influence. The closer the circles get to each other the more intact your self-esteem.

Perhaps we have a lot more influence than we exercise sometimes. Some of the laws we enjoy today are there because historically other people cared enough.

Malala Yousafzai is an amazing example of someone who did something about what she considered was a gross injustice. At age 11 she was studying in school in northern Pakistan but the Taliban decided to ban all schooling for girls, amongst other things. How large was her Circle of Influence as a 11-year-old girl living in a Taliban-controlled area? But she began speaking publicly in defiance of the Taliban. She received death threats, but this did not deter Malala from speaking out against something she believed was wrong. One day, when she was 15 years old, a gunman boarded her bus and shot her, leaving her for dead. She woke in a British hospital a week or so later. At that point she was safe. She could have stopped but Malala said:

“I knew I had a choice: I could live a quiet life, or I could make the most of this new life I had been given. I was determined to continue my fight until every girl could go to school.”

That for me, kind of puts my day-to-day frustrations into perspective.

Put up or shut up

Do something about those irritants or stop whinging. If it was that important, you would do something about it.

So, let’s go back to that list of irritants and see what you can do about them:

  • Your partner doesn’t load the dishwasher properly.

          Kick them out. Or you load the dishwasher.

  • Middle lane drivers hogging the road.

         Stop driving. Avoid motorways. Or decide to focus on the music or podcast you’re           listening to.

  • Your kids play their music too loud.

          Send them to live with their grandparents. Or turn off the WiFi. Or negotiate a                  set time in the day they can play music loudly to their heart’s content.

  • The neighbours won’t fix the fence, even though it’s on their side.

          Move. Or pop round with some nice biccies for a friendly chat about the fence.                Or fix it yourself.

  • People park in the designated family spaces in the supermarket car park – when they’ve no young children in tow.

         Get your shopping delivered. Or choose not to watch who parks where.

The next time you realise you are winding yourself up, ask yourself: ‘What can I do about it?’ If there is something you can do, consider taking that action, or, change the way you’re thinking about the situation. Take back the control of the nature of your thoughts.

Personally, I’m looking forward to a fabulous Bank Holiday weekend, whether it rains or shines. And my shopping is being delivered.

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Do you find it challenging to choose your mood? Do you feel your brain runs you, rather than you run your brain? 

Would you like to feel more in control of the nature of your thoughts, to take your life in the direction you want to take it?

The Mindset Coaching Membership can help you understand the tools and strategies needed. With Masterclass Teachings + Coaching + Accountability, we will help you to create the future you want. Find out more here.

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