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  • Writer's pictureBill Petrie

Ambient Dissatisfaction

It’s not a choice that sets anyone up for success.

Just about everywhere I look, people are:

  • Stressed out in their personal lives.

  • Complaining about how someone did “something” to them.

  • Frustrated with (insert opposite political affiliation here).

  • Irritated with (insert company name here) because they landed a new client.

  • Overwhelmed with change because things were better “way back when.”

It’s an epidemic - and one that people are living in entirely by choice. In other words, people willingly exist in a state of what I call “ambient dissatisfaction.” I would be inclined to bet good money you fully understand what that term means without me going much deeper. By my fabricated definition, ambient dissatisfaction is the condition in which people are not truly happy unless they are a bit unhappy. As a society, we’ve always embraced this state of mind because it makes us feel better to blame whatever negativity we perceive happening around us on outside forces and other people. A few examples:

  • The person that spilled their coffee on you as you rushed to get on the elevator? They didn’t do it intentionally and, candidly, perhaps it was your fault for being late.

  • The stress you have about an upcoming project can be manifested as either anxiety or excitement – the choice is yours.

  • The company that “stole” the account from you was doing its job – the same obligation you have when you land a new client to bolster your business. The fact of the matter is that the customer was likely lost due to a deficiency in your offerings or gaps in your relationship.

Existing in a state of ambient dissatisfaction is an exhausting and miserable choice. Yes, it is a choice I do my best to avoid making. I’ve found the best way to combat this is to willingly put out good in the world by complimenting someone, sending a hand-written thank you note, turning a blind eye and deaf ear to the negative news cycle, and realizing that no matter how good or bad, everything truly is temporary.

As I write this, I don’t have some sort of clever name for the opposite of ambient dissatisfaction. However, maybe it’s just making peace with the fact that the world – and its inhabitants – are imperfect. Expecting perfection in a flawed world is a fool’s mission. I, for one, choose to laugh at the glitches that happen occasionally and learn from the problems I’ve created. This is what truly gives me the power to avoid being ambiently dissatisfied.

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