I have a love-hate relationship with Costco. I love the high quality and low prices of goods, especially the fresh sockeye salmon. Unfortunately, its nightmarish parking, dense crowds, and high concentration of carefree customers can drive me to the brink of insanity. Not everyone has this negative relationship with Costco, and perhaps the level of frustration it creates is unique to me—but that frustration is intense. Why I continue to patronize Costco is not the point. Assuming I will inevitably return, how can I preserve my sanity and avoid shortening my lifespan?
This is the Costco experience from my perspective:
How do other people cope with these irritants? The answer lies within the list: they have no sense of urgency, which implies a mentality and set of goals markedly different from mine. My mentality seems to set me up for a nervous breakdown. When I shop, I want to get in, pick up what’s on my list, grab a few off-list goodies I notice while browsing, and get out without obstructing or running over anyone. Clearly, these goals could not be more unrealistic for Costco.
The Key to Happiness and Longevity = Realistic Expectations
When I shop at Costco, I need to join the other 99%, which means adjusting my expectations to match the situation. First, I can’t be in a hurry. Better yet, I must only go there when I literally have all day. Next, I have to assume that every shopper is completely unaware of my existence and hasn’t a care in the world. That way, I won’t be surprised or bothered when someone parks a cart to take a bite of pizza and blocks half the store. They aren’t trying to ruin my day. They just don’t realize at that moment that other humans exist on earth, and I don’t need to judge them for that. Finally, and most crucial, I must accept that other people’s behavior does not have to make sense. This frees me from the burdens of trying to explain the inexplicable or condemn the very annoying.
The notion of matching expectations to fit the situation can be applied beyond Costco. For example, if your colleague were a pathological liar, expecting him to act honestly and decently would only increase your feelings of anger and betrayal when he burned you. Although working with such a person would always be taxing, seeing him for who he is, anticipating deceit, and avoiding the temptation to understand his behavior would cost you less emotional energy. Of course, this assumes that you have already exhausted all efforts to help make the colleague more accountable.
Viewing a situation realistically and adjusting expectations to match it is a big step toward coping with adversity, managing frustration, and sustaining happiness. Most of the time, making that adjustment is within reach, but in some cases—like my poor fit with Costco—the stretch is excessive. If only Smart and Final carried fresh sockeye salmon. Looks like a trip to Whole Foods (or Alaska) is in my future.