“I Can Still Buy A $4 Cup of Coffee”
Sometimes, it’s the little things that bring the big things back into perspective. A friend of mine who runs a technology startup was in the midst of sharing with me some of the very real challenges he faces in getting his company up and running. His brow was furrowed, and hhe kept sighing. He seemed very tense. Then, after he rattled off some of the issues with cost overruns and staffing problems, he stopped, all of a sudden, sat back in his chair and smiled. “I sound like my world is coming to an end,” he said. “Meanwhile, I can still walk down the street and buy a $4 cup of coffee without worrying about it.”
Yup. That little moment of insight was worth the 4 bucks—and a whole lot more. Because sometimes it really helps to remember that the creative and economic stresses that those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to pay our bills can still feel, along with the sense of impending doom that visits us despite relative peace and prosperity, are created by us. We conjure them up. It’s almost as though we suspend disbelief and generate a false narrative of our lives that makes it seem life threatening if we don’t climb the next rung on the ladder of success or meet rather artificial deadlines or milestones.
Sometimes, we should just sit back, realize there are no holes in our jeans (unless we bought them that way or like them that way), remember that we won’t be at a loss to buy our next $4 cup of coffee and let our lives and hearts and minds breathe a bit.
I am not diminishing the stress of high achievement, nor am I saying that there are not many, many people in the world who are quite clearly not in any position to buy a cup of coffee—at any price. I am definitely not saying that folks who are dealing with tragedies in their lives would get anything out of remembering they have the dough and the convenience to pick up a fine cup of java around the corner. At those moments, who cares about coffee or anything other than what is right in front of you?
I am saying that my friend’s moment of clarity is worth summoning for yourself, if you’re lucky enough that you’re going to be just fine, by the world’s standards, despite whether the project at hand, or the job you’re doing, or the second date you’re hoping for should fall through. There’s still that $4 cup of coffee. Life is still treating you pretty well.
You may well want to come up with your own version of the $4 cup of coffee. I’m going big and trying out this one: “Meanwhile, I still bring my shirts to the cleaners.” See, that kind of luxury and self-indulgence isn’t normal, if normal is what most of the population in the world can avail themselves of. It’s an outrageous level of convenience and luxury, in fact, by the world’s standards.
So, when revenue is down a bit, or the stock market falls some, or that new hire turns out to be a “B” or “C,” not an “A,” I don’t expect you not to register it. Of course, you should and you will. And you have to respond to it, as well. But, I think it’s smart to prepare your $4 cup of coffee quip for those moments. It can bring you back to reality.
Dr. Keith Ablow
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