Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.
The premise is that Jerry Seinfeld borrows a classic, old car and picks up one of his comedian friends for coffee. Their conversation is recorded and edited into a fifteen-minute film.
One of my favorite moments is in episode one when Larry David suggests that his picky eating was one of the reasons his marriage ended:
Larry David: I stopped drinking coffee, and she hated it. I said, "What do you care?" I had tea in the cup. She said, "Well we can't even share coffee in the morning anymore." I said, "But there's something in my cup! You can't see what's in my cup. I'm still sipping! There's still steam coming out of it! What's the difference?!"
Jerry Seinfeld: I know. I ordered soup the other day. Somebody said, "That's all you're gonna get?" What the hell do you care?
I don't mean to sound rude, but I think they have a point. Why do we care? Sometimes there's a good reason, but many times there isn't.
Let's use the tea example.
When we care about what someone else is drinking, we are attaching some small part of our inner peace to that person and their actions. Because we can't control that person or what they drink, we risk feeling discontent when they don't act in the way we've expected them to.
We allow ourselves to be affected by other people like this all the time. It's a perfectly natural, human thing. Of course we should care about what our loved ones think. But when it comes to minutia—like what someone's drinking—I can't see any worthwhile reason to care.
Ask yourself, "How does this person's decision affect me?"
If the answer is that it doesn't, that's great. Let go, and become a little bit more free.
If the answer is something negative, ask yourself why. Is it a good reason, or is it kind of silly?
In either case, the good news is that, while you have no control over the other person, you do have control over you, which allows you to free yourself as long as you choose to do so.
Merlin Mann came up with a terrific response to these situations on Back to Work. When faced with something silly—perhaps even something serious—that has a negative effect on you, simply say to yourself:
I've chosen not to let it bother me.
By acknowledging the fact that you cannot control anything other than yourself and how you react to what goes on around you, you enable yourself to rise above whatever it was that was disturbing your inner peace.
Let them drink tea. Let them order soup. Everything will be alright. Trust me. There are more important things to worry about.