I’m a good driver. I typically let people in, I don’t speed, and I haven’t been in an accident in a long, long time (knock on wood). In fact, I’ve only ever had one ticket in my life (knock on wood again). (Of course, I should have had a LOT more tickets, but that’s for another post another time...) However, despite what sounds like a golden reputation, I’m also a miserable driver. I spend A LOT of time grousing while driving. Grousing, I have to admit, is an intensely kind way of putting it. I get so frustrated by other drivers, most often when traffic is slow and congested. My biggest pet peeve is when someone is lolling down the road just at the speed limit or slightly below, and then they squirt through a yellow light and leave me at the red. My grousing, as you can imagine, becomes wildly ‘colorful’ at that point. My poor wife...
Still, I try so hard to be calm, and I understand that it’s in my best interest to ‘just let it go,’ but why is it so hard to do that? This comes down to a key part of my psyche: desire. If I desire something to go a certain way, well, I want that to happen! So, when I pull out of my driveway in the morning with my little puppy heart imagining a smooth drive to work, and I get out on the road and SCHOOL BUS!! or CEMENT TRUCK!!... well... my puppy heart boils over with brimstone stinking lava. While I'm still going 60 mph, and that will only take me a moment or two longer to get to work, my mind wants that 75 number to be on the dashboard, and how dare this idiot take that from me? Elevated heart rate and language ensues.
There’s a lesson to be learned here. Desires are VERY important. We must want things from life to achieve things, and setting healthy boundaries also exist in this wheelhouse. I have a desire that people won’t take money from my wallet I haven’t volunteered to give. I will defend that desire and rightly so! However, there’s a big benefit to defending that. If I didn’t, I could end up broke. If someone did take money out of my wallet, I might become quite upset (I would). I don’t think I should just say, “Oh yeah, that’s okay, no big deal.” I made that money, and I need that money to do things for me and my family like eat and pay for a warm house. When the desire to keep my money isn’t met, responding with vitriol can be quite helpful. “Stop taking my money!” (Visualized a shocked person giving me back my money.) Yet, driving... what does my expectation of going 75 do for me? Well, it serves to keep me from a speeding ticket (since I don’t expect to be going 110) and it helps me get to work on time.
However, when that expectation can’t be met because someone in front of me is going slowly or the freeway is too full of cars, no amount of vitriol is going to improve my situation. Since stress is bad for us, I have to take a moment to consider the cost-benefit. What good does my reaction do me? Do I receive a worthy outcome? If I don’t, I’m far better off letting it go. I have to make peace with my desire. I’d love to be going 75, but now there’s a bus and a semi and every minivan in my town in front of me... So, what do I do? In this way, I have to consider greater desires. What’s more important to me, going 75 or not getting into an argument with my wife when I get home? If I let go of my expectation to drive 75, and let 60 be okay, then I won’t walk into the house dripping with cortisol and ready to fight a saber-toothed tiger. If I let my greater desire for a long-life and positive interactions with my family override the smaller desire of going 75, I’ll walk in the door calm and ready to enjoy the evening.
I consider it important to note how often we let lesser desires destroy our ability to fulfill greater desires. This is fairly obvious when we lay it all out loud, but it can be soooo easy to get locked into that lesser desire and target lock on it. In fact, we so often lose out on our best lives because of falling to lesser desires. Consider the desire for pizza vs. the desire to look like Jason Momoa (feel free to insert your preferred, gender appropriate version). So how to beat this monster? That’s quite a road upon which many, many books have been written, but I believe the onramp to that highway begins with self-awareness. We can’t understand what is going on until we watch ourselves and appreciate what it is we’re responding to and how we’re responding. What thoughts do we have right before that heart rate amps up? That’s not easy to do, because that racing heart tends to wipe out all those nice, helpful, rational thoughts.
This is a big bag of chips to dig into, so... until next time please consider your desires when you're feeling colorfully expletive in traffic. What did you want to happen, and how does that not match what did happen? Is your expectation reasonable? If it is, there’s one more important question... even if your desired outcome is reasonable, will being upset about it be worth the cost of the fight? And even more importantly... (and this is a bigger bag of chips) do you need to be upset at all to take up arms against that sea of troubles? If you’re like me, you’ll find just about all daily annoyances fit the, let it go category. The best part of this is, when you do find something that’s really worth fighting for, since you haven’t exhausted yourself with lesser desires, you have a lot more gas in the tank to fight the big, important fight.