Annoyance Control

The Daily Stoic is delivered to my inbox every morning. It offers a meditation for the day grounded in the philosophy of stoicism. For 2019, I’m getting a double dose of meditations as I am also working through Ryan Holiday’s book The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living. Yes, you can find it on Amazon for cheaper, but the link I provided is for a personalized, signed copy.

The reason I’m bringing up the stoicism philosophy is that some events of last week were very reminiscent of a few of the meditations I read.

The Meeting

A meeting at my university took place in which a few individuals wanted to have a discussion about how our specific division would handle a situation in which a student says a racial slur in class. A racist video was recently posted on social media which sparked this discussion.

During the discussion, one of the most vocal individuals in the room may have put his foot in his mouth on one of his many, many comments. One of my colleagues, who is also a friend of mine, was extremely irritated by the off-the-cuff remark. When I looked at my friend at the end of the meeting, I could tell he was really upset.

The Student

This semester, I have a student in two of my classes that I have also had in four previous classes of mine. He asks questions seemingly non-stop in class. To be fair, about 1 in 4 of these questions are really good, and another 1 in 4 are clarifications or corrections of mistakes I make. However, half of them are nonsensical and seem to disrupt the flow of the lecture.

This used to be a LOT worse. I’ve worked with this student a lot, trying to get him to a point of identifying when his questions are inappropriate. He has improved.

Outside of class, he uses my office hours quite a bit. I like to set aside my office hours to help students over specific problems they are not understanding. He likes to use them to ask questions such as “If you had to choose between one of these two, would you rather explode or implode?” When I look at him with the best WTF and WGAF face I can possibly muster, he looks back at me completely oblivious to my social cue, curious as a cat as to what my answer will be.

I’m left to wonder if he simply is deficient in picking up social cues or if he just doesn’t care that he is pushing my buttons and crawling under my skin.

Annoyance and Frustration is a Choice

Stoicism will remind you that you are in control of your thoughts and feelings. While I was able to let an off-the-cuff remark by a vocal colleague fly right by to be ignored and forgotten, my stoicism is challenged daily by my student. My student is not in control of any annoyance or frustration that I feel. I am.

I can either choose to quickly answer his silly question with some random response… “Explode, of course. Duh.” Or, I can choose to let him control my feelings and waste a half hour stewing about the absurdity.

Next time you are feeling annoyed or frustrated by someone or something, try and frame it in terms of control. Are you going to let that someone or something control you into feeling annoyed or frustrated, or are you going to take control of your own feelings and own you day?

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