Most people look at the world and think it should be a certain way. We have our values, our priorities, our desires, and our perspectives, and we want the world around us to align with all of those things. While I don’t believe that most people are so self-centered that they consciously demand that the world bend to their specific demands, it happens subconsciously for almost all of us.
This is a recipe for anxiety, frustration, anger, or letting our thoughts become entrenched. When things don’t go our way, we blame our surroundings, others, and eventually ourselves for our current state. We become closed, defensive, and consumed with being right.
That person should have used their turn signal. Your neighbor should have voted differently in the last election. That store should have better parking to make your day easier. And if you turn on the news, well, you see thousands of events and happenings that would have been handled differently if you were in charge.
Take Responsibility for How You Respond to the World
Whether or not that driver ahead of you should have used a turn signal is the least important factor in that situation. You could be angry and flash your lights and throw up your hands and yell – even though you’re the only who can hear you – but the better option for your wellbeing is to take responsibility for how you react and respond.
Self-awareness is the keystone for installing the Habits of a Healthy Mind. It plays a vital role in helping you take charge of your health and life.
You can’t choose how other drivers behave, but you can choose what you do as a result. You could become the victim, angry and upset for how someone else affected your trip, but does all of that stress and rage actually benefit you? It doesn’t. That problem driver will take the next exit, and even though you’ll never see them again, you are likely to pull into work that morning still frustrated by your experience.
Your Locus of Control
Understand that if you’re unaware that you are operating at a subconscious level and making choices that are not in your best interest – like letting road rage consume you – then you cannot improve. Secondly, you absolutely need to decide that you are going to take responsibility for your behavior and your results. This is very different from placing blame or responsibility on something or someone outside of your control.
In psychology, how an individual responds to their world is referred to as the locus of control. In other words, do you make life happen or is it happening to you? Who is in charge?
When we place blame on others, we give away our power and surrender control, and we place the cause and reason outside of ourselves. In this mindset, it’s not your fault that the driver made you angry. It’s their fault, which means you’ve let a total stranger dictate how you think and feel.
When something happens to you, recognize that you have the power to choose how you respond. Instead of simmering in anger, you can take a deep breath, recognize that no one got hurt, give the driver grace that perhaps they made an honest mistake and had no intention of disrupting your day, and let the emotions pass.
This will take practice, so start practicing as soon as you can. When you make this a Habit of Health, you will find that a great deal of your daily stress and anxiety fades away because very rarely is it productive or helpful.