There is a growing awareness among Americans that their lives are off track. Anger, uneasiness and a frustration with busyness seem to abound.
- We see this with the ceaseless nature of jobs today.
- We see this as we enter mid-career, unfulfilled and burnt out.
- We see this as we realize our chosen career path isn’t going to work out.
- We see this when we don’t let ourselves take a real vacation.
- We see this in the relentless nature of modern parenting.
- We see this when we can’t let ourselves have an off day.
- We see this as we reach for our phones for the umpteenth time today.
- We see this when we can’t find enough time to think creatively for a few minutes.
I think you get the picture. Modern life is filled with opportunities to scold ourselves and blame others. Maybe we need antidote. The Danish have a word, ‘pyt,’ that may help us in our daily lives. Here is one definition of pyt:
A marvelous little word that is used to dismiss something that may not have gone according to plan, but should not be considered a problem. Often heard when somebody is trying to make someone else feel better about a minor error.
Or as Marie Helweg-Larsen at The Conversation writes:
Pyt is usually expressed as an interjection in reaction to a daily hassle, frustration or mistake. It most closely translates to the English sayings, “Don’t worry about it,” “stuff happens” or “oh, well.”
You might shatter a glass in the kitchen, shrug and say, “pyt.” You might see a parking ticket lodged under your windshield wiper and, just as you become hot with anger, shake your head and murmur, “pyt.”
At its core, it’s about accepting and resetting. It’s used as a reminder to step back and refocus rather than overreact. Instead of assigning blame, it’s a way to let go and move on…Pyt can reduce stress because it is a sincere attempt to encourage yourself and others to not get bogged down by minor daily frustrations.
Of course saying ‘pyt, pyt, pyt’ isn’t going to change your life overnight. But it has the potential to moderate some of our worst instincts. It isn’t that NOTHING matters. The issue is that Americans are prone to judge life by unrealistic standards. We have, quite literally, all the world’s knowledge at our fingertips but we still aren’t happy. Ben Carlson at A Wealth of Common Sense writing about the downside of workism and perfectionism notes:
Social media is constantly shoving accolades, promotions, vacations, 30 under 30 lists, and the fake Internet lives of Instagram “celebrities” down your throat. In the past, we compared ourselves to our peers, co-workers, family, friends, and members of our communities. There were always standouts among these communities but the Internet has made everyone is a small fish in a big pond.
Now we compare can ourselves to every humblebragger from around the globe and it’s making many of us miserable because everyone’s life is perfect on the Internet and our real life is flawed. This is a game you’ll never win because the other side is always cheating.
Our lives are by definition imperfect. We cannot feel happy all the time, let alone most of the time. Feeling otherwise is recipe for unhappiness. Ephrat Livni at Quartz writes:
Struggle helps cultivate resilience, and American “workism” is misguided. But Duhigg and Thompson also ignore a more fundamental issue. It’s clamoring for happiness that makes people miserable..People who are deeply invested in the idea of achieving happiness are more likely to obsess over failure and negative feelings. Because these are unavoidable in any life, the high expectations create more stress that leads to increased negativity.
If expectations are a big part of where we can get off track, then the financial markets are a great place to make yourself miserable. Too many investors have high expectations not only for themselves, but for heir advisors, money managers and for the market as as whole. Morgan Housel at the Collaborative Fund in a recent post talks about how not caring about many things related to investing frees us up. He writes:
Einstein’s alleged quip of “Not everything that can be counted counts” holds true for maybe 98% of what happens in financial markets. And if you can put that idea to use you free up time to focus on the 2% that does count.
Figure out what you can control and obsess over it. Identify what doesn’t matter and ignore it. Determine what you’re incapable of and stay away from it.
Have room for error.
Plan on things not going according to plan.
After that, you, see, I don’t mind what happens.
Investing is hard. Life is hard. We are going to get things wrong as often as we get them right. Being okay with that, and yourself, may not a recipe for happiness but it is an antidote to misery. Ephrat Livni again:
What we really need more than positivity is objectivity. And that can be cultivated. A kind of defensive pessimism is perhaps the best approach. It’s like carrying a mental umbrella, knowing that the weather is changeable.
There are plenty of big things in life for which saying ‘pyt’ won’t suffice. But for the other stuff ‘pyt, pyt, pyt.’