Let's add a mindful practice to get our mind and spirit on track when things are frustrating. Which, if you have to get in your car and drive anywhere or come in contact with other humans, has a high likelihood of happening.
I'm about to share some life-changing advice with you. Are you ready?
Stop ascribing intention to other people's actions.
A few years ago I was checking out at the grocery and the cashier was rude. I mean not speaking, not making eye contact--I'll bet you've been there. I was getting more irritated by the minute. By the time we got to the part where you pay and get a receipt, I was seriously feeling like I might find a manager. Okay, so that's not me and I was really just going to go home and complain to my husband about it and feel slighted in some way for the rest of the day. Humans can be so petty, can't we?
As she handed me my receipt she looked me in the eye for the first time and said, "I'm sorry about my attitude but this is the anniversary of my son's death and I'm not quite myself."
Kick to the gut. I felt like the most insensitive ass ever. I assured her that it was fine and that I was sorry for her loss and did the entitled walk of shame to my car. But in reality, this is the situation all the time.
Be Kind; Everyone You Meet is Fighting a Hard Battle
From what I can see in the culture and what I've noticed in my own life here's a quick and dirty trick to try today when someone cuts you off in traffic or is rude at the checkout.
Think of 5 legitimate reasons someone would be driving like a jerk other than them just being a jerk. Sure you can curse them and call them names and imagine that they also strangle kittens and steal ice cream from little kids.
Question: How does that make you feel? Because here's the thing-- what you think isn't affecting the other driver at all. You, however, are tightening your muscles, clenching your jaw, and increasing your blood pressure.
How differently would you feel if you knew that the driver just found out his teenage son had been in an accident and was on the way to the hospital? Or that his wife is having a baby? Or that he spent 5 extra minutes at home with his kids but that his boss really is a jerk who berates him when he's late?
"But," you may say, "what if he really is a complete jackass and you are just lying to yourself?" Exactly. Either way, his impact on you is the same. It's your perception that is making you unhappy, so change it.
This kind of storytelling to ourselves builds our capacity for empathy and compassion. In case you haven't been paying attention these are things society and the world are in desperate need of. The fact is that we have no idea why other people do some of the things they do. Assuming the worst only hurts us and damages our health.
Asking "how does this impact me?" is also another great tool as is "Will this matter in 100 years?" Or 10? Or a year from now?
We waste a lot of emotional energy taking offense to so much that we could encounter and then move on from. If you want to be calmer, happier, and possibly live longer here's today's take away:
Ask yourself if it matters to you personally.
Will it matter years from now?
Make up the kind of story you'd want someone to think about you when you aren't your best self.
I don't know about you but I need that kind of grace every day. If I want it then I certainly need to be willing to give it. I'm not there yet but I'm working on it.