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Logo Logo Nick Hodges

The Bother Factor

/ 4 min read

I think everyone has a Bother Factor.

I define The Bother Factor as “The percentage of things one encounters in life that bother them”.

One should aspire to have a very low Bother Factor. In other words, one should endeavor to follow the maxim “Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it is pretty much all small stuff.

So, if you have 10% Bother Factor, that means that 10% of the things in your life bother you, and the other 90% don’t bother you.

I used to have a pretty big Bother Factor. I used to be irritated by all kinds of things. I used to be bothered by how people would lead their lives. By things that other people believed. It used to bug me no end if I didn’t get my way on many trivial matters. I remember being bothered by things like toaster placement or the color of people’s clothes.

Don't be this guy

I think life is really hard when your Bother Factor is high. If you are walking around pissed off all the time about things that happen to you or the things other people do, you’ll probably be pretty miserable, frankly. I suspect that there is a strong correlation between unhappy people and their high Bother Factors.

A high Bother Factor can make relationships hard. Imagine two people with Bother Factors at, say, 50%. When those two people are in a relationship, the overlap of the Venn diagram of their Bother Factors is pretty large.

If neither of you care about how to deal with toothpaste tubes (Squish in the middle? Flatten from the end?), then that is no problem. But if you both are highly invested in the way things are arranged in the refrigerator, and that way is different, then that can be a real problem. If this is constantly happening, it can be, well, not good.

But if you have very small Bother Factors, say 1%, then there will be very little to clash on, and when there is an overlap, it is probably on a pretty important thing which is actually worth dealing with.

I suppose that at some point, you two will have to decide whether mayo jar placement is really all that important.

I also find that the lower my Bother Factor gets, the more I am aware of the things that do bother me, and I can easily sense the times when my Bother Factor is overlapping with someone else. It’s kind of a virtuous circle. The less that bothers me, the better I am able to deal with things that do bother me. This means that when my Bother Factor clashes with someone else, then I’m much better able to deal with it.

I am pretty pleased where my Bother Factor is at right now. It’s really quite low. Realizing that there is very little out there — truly, very little — that is worth going to the mat over makes life go much more smoothly.

This all came to me as Janice and I were cleaning out and organizing her garage yesterday. It went great, and was actually kind of fun and satisfying. I had ideas and thoughts about how it all should go, but so did she, and they were sometimes different. The positioning of suitcase on a shelf is a pretty trivial thing, and it didn’t bother me at all that she wanted it a certain way. It’s her suitcase, and she’s likely the one that will have to get it back out when the time comes, right?

Since we both have pretty low Bother Factors, it all went great, and she now has a well organized garage. And I’m not kidding, it was really fun.

I can remember, though, when having my opinion validated on trivial matters was dreadfully important to me, and cleaning the garage with Old Nick would probably not have gone very well at all.

I see so many people with high Bother Factors. If I were to recommend a good place to start on lowering yours, it would be to stop being bothered by how other people choose to live their lives. This was a great source of bother for me in the past, and I see it bothering other people all the time. All. The. Time. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that there is a direct correlation with a high Bother Factor and one’s need to tell other people how to live their lives.

So my advice: If you want to be happier, lower your Bother Factor.