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The longer I live, the more unfair things have happened to me.
Being dumped by a girlfriend. Losing an award because my boss was mad at me. Losing half of a precious day off because a tire blew.
Yet unfairness is not unusual; it enters every life — yours, mine, everybody’s.
Unfairness is both normal and unavoidable. Countless philosophers and powerful figures have told us this.
I became so tired of suffering from unfair situations that I created a coping mechanism that allowed me to dismiss the unfairness that I couldn’t let go of. I coped with the unfair situation by telling myself, “Well, I just won the negative lottery.” (It works for me.)
In the decades that have passed since I invented the negative lottery, I have learned a lot. Here are five thoughts on the unfairness of life:
- Unfairness is something you can’t control. What you can control is what you do now. Don’t waste this opportunity by living in the past.
- Many unfair situations are minor and don’t merit the ways you’re ruining your day. Recognize how small they are, and return your focus to today.
- “Life is not fair” is a not a fact; it is the subjective opinion of a human being. Life is neither fair nor unfair; it simply is. Random things happen, sometimes good, sometimes bad, but we tend to remember the bad things. Ultimately, what happens to you is not important; how you react to it is the only thing that matters.
- “What happened to me is unfair” is a story you’re telling yourself about what happened in the past. This story wastes your time and energy. It will discourage you or even make you think bad things about yourself. You’ll do better if you focus on the present.
- One way to turn the unfair situation into something positive is to learn from it. What triggered it? What was going on that made a person do what they did? Did you have a role in what happened? Study what you’ve discovered and you will find lessons and knowledge that will help you in the future.
Do I still rail against the unfairness of life? Yes, but for less time and with less suffering. When my Kindle broke by accident, I put it in a trashcan, immediately let go of the event, and continued with my day. It was harder to let go of accidentally deleting my Medium publication, but I was able to do it by the next day. One way I could tolerate the loss was to see the loss as an opportunity to focus on displaying only my best articles.
Dealing with unfairness is challenging, but as with any setback, it gives us an opportunity to develop resilience against future woes, feel the joy of overcoming adversity, and become better people than who we are today.