Just over a week ago, I was out for a walk with Jane, my wife, Annie, my daughter, and James, my grandson. We needed to get back for a particular time, and had a decision to make about whether to take a shorter or longer route home. So I got out my phone to check how far we had already walked, what the time was, and so on.
And at that moment, as I looked at the phone, I slipped off the edge of the path and fell as my foot slid down a bank. I flung out my hands and broke my fall - and the screen of my phone.
As always when one does something particularly stupid, with irritating consequences, I was really annoyed with myself. However, I reflected on the fact that I didn't want to ruin the walk for Jane or Annie (or baby James), so I reassured them that I was fine, got back to my feet, and we carried on with the walk.
As we walked, I reflected that I hadn't, till quite recently, acquired the self-discipline of controlling my irritation so well, and I attribute that to the practice of meditation that I have undertaken over the last few years. So I took advantage of the space that opened up - the space to consider how I wanted to react to the unfortunate event.
And that prompted me to consider the various stories available to me about the incident. One, of course, was the story of how stupid and careless I had been, what a nuisance it was to have broken my phone, and what a needless expense I had incurred. But as I walked, I reflected on the last time I had fallen badly, and broken a bone in my hand, and dislocated my finger. That had been very much worse - and a similar fall. So perhaps hitting the ground with my phone had not been such a bad thing after all.
And then there was the fact that I was due to head of to France a few days later for a serious walk (from Paris to Chartres). Had I damaged myself, I would have had to pull out, and that would have been extremely disappointing (and, of course, a lot more costly than merely replacing a phone screen). So within a few minutes I had re-written the story, and was now overwhelmed, not by a feeling of irritation with myself, but with a feeling of gratitude. And I believe gratitude is a very much healthier emotion to indulge than irritation.
And that is a microcosm of the approach I advocate in the book: notice what's going on, notice the unhelpful story you are constructing, develop a more helpful positive story and choose to believe that, and live happily ever after!