When sitting in traffic, what do you focus on?
- Do you focus on how late you are?
- Do you focus on how frustrating traffic is?
- Do you focus on how lucky you are to be stuck in traffic with amazing music at your fingertips?
- Do you focus on the beautiful trees on the side of the road?
- Do you focus on how much you need to switch careers?
- Do you focus on the power of being able to call anyone you want while you are stuck in traffic?
There are an infinite amount of things to focus your thoughts on. If you can focus on being grateful for your current situation it makes everything else a little easier.
This practice is challenging and I still struggle with it.
Your mindset determines your happiness. When you can appreciate the power of your perspective, then you can start to work on improving your perspective.
For example, I ordered takeout for my family. I went to pick it up. They didn’t have the order.
As I stood there trying to be kind and patient, I could feel myself getting angry. My four-year-old was with me and he was hungry and getting cranky.
“What are you doing?” my four-year-old asked me.
“We have to wait for our food.” I replied.
“Because they didn’t make our food. They have to make it while we wait.”
I stand up to see how long it will take. The woman can see my frustration and she tells me just a few more minutes.
I look at my phone to see what time I called to place the order. It was almost an hour ago.
Then I check to see what time the restaurant closes. I knew it closed early on a Monday. That’s when I realized my mistake. I called the wrong restaurant. There is another restaurant with the same name 5 miles away. I felt so embarrassed. I couldn’t believe I made the mistake. I had done this before and I forgot to double check to make sure I had the right restaurant.
I sat back down and just like that my anger vanished.
From pure frustration to complete embarrassment.
My internal aim went from being angry at them messing up my order to being embarrassed and trying to figure out how to hide it.
This is how quickly our mindset can change if we are willing to be open to new information. I could have pulled an old mindset trick and blamed the app I was using and not being smart enough to find the restaurant closest to my location or I could be mad at the restaurant for not double checking that I had the right location.
Instead I did what I had been afraid to do.
I went up and apologized and told the woman it was my fault. She smiled and said it was no problem. I was so grateful that she was kind about my mistake.
I realized how my gratitude practice has changed how I handle situations. I’m much more open to admitting my faults. This has allowed me to enjoy my mistakes.
Just a few months ago I would have hidden from this mistake. I would've put the blame on somebody else.
Gratitude helps me refocus my internal aim. Instead of letting my inner bully shame me, I’m grateful to explore the feelings without judgement or fear.
The key is to appreciate every feeling for what it’s trying to offer me. Then pick my internal aim. I can run with the anger or sadness (and sometimes I do), but in the past I wasn’t making a conscious choice whether to do this or not. When my father was passing I needed to grieve. I wanted to explore these feelings deeper. Other times I may be feeling some minor frustration with my son that I want to appreciate and practice letting go of.
It’s my choice.
It’s your choice, but it does take practice.
When you decide to work on your mindset and begin peeling away the layers of how you think and what you could do to improve, then the fun begins. I don’t believe anyone should start off focusing on improving their mindset for a whole hour each day. It’s just too much too soon. You want to work up toward it.
My mindset practice really started working for me when I started keeping a gratitude journal. It helped me see that there was opportunity for gratefulness in every situation, including a traffic jam, instead of letting my negative thoughts overwhelm me.
When you take back the power to choose your outlook, rather than letting the traffic jam dictate your feelings, this is the first step toward aiming your thoughts where you want them to go instead of following old thought patterns. This is how you can feel joyful instead of irritated by each seemingly random slow down. It’s all about practicing every day. When you get stuck at a red light or a slow down due to construction, this is your opportunity to work on aiming your focus in a more positive direction. The more your practice feeling these feelings when you are stuck in traffic, being thankful for them then refocus on the good things that you do have in your current situation, the easier it gets.
What’s really cool is as you practice enjoying traffic you’ll have your ups and downs, but then one day it clicks and you'll get a glimpse of internal freedom. This is an amazing experience. This can feel like a newly formed superpower because now you are able put your focus on enjoying a difficult situation like a traffic jam.
Photo by Joline Torres on Unsplash