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How Cheap Is Your Happiness? The Tale Of The Seat In The Coffee Shop

I've always loved coffee shops. The smell of them, the ambiance, and of course, the coffee itself. A couple years ago, I spent virtually every day in coffee shops while working for a startup. It's been a while since I've been back to do some work.

Today, I felt like revisiting that feeling.

As I got ready in the morning, I had the specific Starbucks in mind that I would go to. Not only that, but the exact table and seat. I was excited to grab my venti iced coffee - unsweetened - and tuck myself into the back corner. I had it all mapped out. I would be so productive.

Upon arriving, as luck would have it, my seat was open. I said the hell with the line - I'm going straight to claim my table, then I'll get my coffee! So I start walking over, feeling the excitement tingle up from my torso into my head. I was giddy.

A few steps later, it all comes crashing down. I see a notebook, a phone, and a little pen scattered about the table. It had already been claimed.

In disbelief, I quickly scanned the rest of the location for an open seat, but nothing to my avail. The place was jam-packed. One moment, I was ecstatic. The next, my hopes were shattered. I won't lie. I was frustrated...

So frustrated that I didn't even stay there. I had to get out and find a new work spot, even though I didn't know where I would go. I drove away in anger.

The reason I'm telling this story is because this whole blog is about letting go of our need for external situations to make us feel good.

This morning, I'm ashamed to say I literally limited my joy to a single seat at a single table in a single Starbucks. How ridiculous is that!?

I set up a condition in my mind, from earlier in the morning (or perhaps the night before), stating that I needed to work in a specific spot. I did this because I thought it would set me up for a nice, productive session. In other words, I needed that spot to give me a feeling, rather than going within and removing what was preventing me from feeling that in the first place.

On the way back to the car, and as I drove away (still without my coffee!), I realized that I had done all of this to myself.

I had made myself angry. The Starbucks didn't do it. The people there didn't do it. The seat and table sure as hell didn't do it. I did it. And that's the big realization here that I want to get across.

In virtually every situation of our lives, we're constantly setting expectations for the people, places, and things around us. Then when the inevitable happens - that is, when events don't unfold exactly according to our preferences - our joy is limited. This is the definition of a losing formula. What a miserable way to live!

Years ago when these coffee-shop scenarios would unfold, my whole day could have easily been ruined. I would have held onto the frustration, taken it back home with me, and then experienced a tornado of frustration, guilt, anger throughout the day. Every thing and every body I'd come across would be clouded by the storm of misery. This is also why it's so important to let go immediately, lest you fall into the trappings of the mind.

Do you ever experience frustration when simple things out of your control don't go your way? Maybe it's not in a coffee shop, but I'd love to hear when this happens to you, and hopefully bring awareness so we can turn around this pattern and protect our joy.

Live with substance!

Gabe Orlowitz


When planning for an upcoming activity, be careful not to tie your well-being to specific outcomes of the plan. Otherwise, you'll most certainly be let down. Your only rigid plan should be to be okay no matter what happens.


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