It happens every day. You are cut off by another car. Your neighbour starts up the leaf blower just as you settle in with a book and a cup of tea. Annoyance is the natural reaction. It’s the easy way to go.
Each time we are faced with a trigger like these, we face a fork in the road. The easy thing is to go with your lizard brain, do what comes naturally, and lean on the horn or yell at your neighbour. The harder thing to do is to forgive and move on. It is counter-intuitive but almost always the right thing to do.
Who is hurt more when you do the easy thing and let anger and annoyance get the better of you? Answer: you are.
You leaning on the horn and screaming obscenities is an option, sure. But how is this helpful? For the kids in the car behind you (or worse, sitting in your back seat) it is a terrible example to observe; for the nervous driver that just cut you off by accident, there is no lesson learned, only more anxiety. For you, your blood pressure has just spiked and your mood is spoiled for hours. Another option is to apply the brakes rather than the horn when you see the person moving over, take a deep breath, relax, and don’t spend another second worrying about it. You will get where you are going more safely and in a better mood this way as compared to taking something that has nothing to do with you as a personal affront. Truly, it is not about you, so why act like it is?
Your neighbour has no idea you are relaxing. He just wants to get his leaves cleared, so why sweat it? Take a deep breath and move to another room.
I make it sound easier than it is. These calm reactions are counter-intuitive and they take practice, but they become positive habits over time. Forgiving and moving on is the exception to the norm, a thing that sets a person apart from the crowd. It takes wisdom and it takes practice. It is also the hallmark of great parents, coaches, and leaders.
I see it in the best of the best I work with, or in people I have the privilege to meet. These are people who are content and successful in their work and leadership positions in the business or non-profit world. No matter what confronts them, they get over it fast and focus on what they need to do, not trying to change the unchangeable. Instead, they focus on what they can change—their own attitudes and actions.