Yesterday whilst taking the bus into the city, I witnessed something that reinforced a strong lesson I learnt regarding the power of choice.
What had happened was that, as the bus was nearing it's final stop, the driver made a wrong turn resulting in a short detour. Immediately as the rest of the passengers realised what happened, the atmosphere changed from being on 'auto-pilot' mode to frustration and annoyance.
Now, this is example of a 'negative' event is something that many people might perceive as minuscule and not noteworthy, however you might be able to see that it's these 'small' events, that if they were to happen frequently, can really make a difference to your mindset and energy levels throughout the day.
Minuscule events perceived negatively, when added up, make a huge impact to your daily mindset and energy levels.
One lady was quite vocal, and let's say, colourful in her language. A few other passengers just walked up to the doors as if to signal that they wanted to be let out immediately because they knew they would have to wait an extra few minutes or so before we reached the bus depot.
What was amazing to witness was how lots of people got visibly (and some audibly) disgruntled, all because their standard routine had been broken.
I turned to one of the annoyed passengers sitting next to me, and said:
"Do you know what's happening?"
They swore a bit but essentially said, yes, the bus took a wrong turn and now I'm 5 minutes late. So I asked:
"Yeah, but do you really know what's happening?". They were a bit confused and said the same thing, to which I told them:
"Do you realise that you, and nearly half of the other passengers, are so annoyed just because you're going to be a whooping 5 minutes late? Do you realise that such a small detour and your subsequent responses are putting you into such a negative mindset and it's only 7:45am? Are you going to let such a small thing and more importantly, you're response, paint such a negative start to the rest of what could be an amazing day?"
The person's lips were pursed, and I could see that it has struck a cord with him, and that they were realising how their reactions might've been a bit over the top.
The absolute truth is that we have no control over what happens outside of us. External forces, events, what other people say or do, etc, are completely outside of our realm of control.
What we can change however, is the choice of how we respond to those events.
In the example above, many people chose negative responses, like frustration and annoyance. As a consequence, their emotional reactions put them into a negative physiological state and in turn, their psychological state became negative:
- Bloody hell, now I'm going to be 5 minutes late...
- Geez, this is why I hate public transport...
- Stupid bus system, can't they train their drivers properly...
- Why the hell do I need to suffer...
Obviously I'm not a mind reader, but I can only imagine we've all thought something like the above at some point in our lives.
In my case, I chose to respond with gratitude, thinking:
- It could've been worse like we could've hit a car or something and then we'd have caused someone harm and have been delayed even further.
- How lucky am I the biggest problem today was just that my bus was 5 minutes late.
If you want to be in control of your feelings and emotions, so you can minimize the potential negative experiences and increase positive ones then:
- Pause and take a step back from the situation (in this case, negative ones)
- Assess what emotions could be welling up inside of you
- Determine what the cause of the emotions are (ie. what happened externally)
- Change the meaning of the event/situation by re-framing the experience (similar to what I did above)
As I mentioned earlier on in this article, this was just a small 'negative' event, and was on the way into work.
How could you apply this at work or anywhere else in your life?
I hope this helps you to be more in control over how you respond to future events, where in the past they may have caused you to react negatively.
To your success,
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