I was driving home yesterday, in a hurry because I needed to quickly grab something from my apartment and run back out. As I neared my turn off of the PCH (the major highway running up the coast of California), I signaled and tried to get into the right lane. Aware of a car slightly behind me in the right lane, I sped up to pass and move over. However, this car also sped up. So, I slowed down to let that car pass, thinking I would just get behind him/her. But then the car slowed down! This happened twice, and I was going to miss my turn if I couldn’t get over. Finally, I just slowed down so much that the car had to move forward and I was able to switch into the right lane and make my turn.
Now, while all of this was going on, I admit that I was getting a little frustrated. All I wanted to do was move over one lane on the highway so that I could get home, and I was angered that this person seemed to be not letting me over on purpose. I took it completely personally, and I felt like it was an attack (ok, that’s a little dramatic, but you know what I mean) on me.
As I pulled into the right lane, the light turned red and I got to take a look at this “mean, rude, person who was clearly trying to keep me from moving lanes.” Well, it was an old little lady looking quite frazzled and out of it. She could barely see over the wheel and was either trying to talk to someone on a blue tooth or she was talking to herself. She was looking at the red light very intently, and had no clue that I was looking at her from one lane over. Point being, she was CLEARLY not plotting to keep me from switching lanes and get home; in fact, she seemed pretty oblivious to anything on the road. Not the best scenario for driving, but great for me to learn a lesson.
Here I was, stuck in my unconscious limiting belief that this situation was “obviously” personal, and whoever was driving the car was “obviously” trying to keep me from doing what I wanted to do… when the reality of the situation was SO far from that. WOW. And this rationalization was so instinctual and ingrained in me that I didn’t even consider another scenario until I saw the driver. I had a moment of such clarity as I looked at the clueless lady in the car next to me and realized just how often I take this stance with situations in my life. Somewhere in my life, and I have no clue where (and it doesn’t matter), I picked up a deep belief that if things aren’t happening, or are difficult, or of someone doesn’t act in the way I think they “should,” it is a personal attack on me. Jeez. This is the thought and belief that has been unconsciously playing out in my life, coloring my reactions and thoughts about situations.
Up until now, that is! Now I am aware of this belief, and I can shift it. Remember, life isn’t what happens to us, it’s what we tell ourselves about what is happening to us. So, a simple situation of driving home next to an older, slightly clueless driver turned into a personal attack on me, all because of my belief systems. A different response I could have had was, “Hmmm. I wonder why this person doesn’t realize I want to get over into his/her lane?” Or even more neutral “This is interesting. I’ll have to find another way to get over.” Simple as that. I’m very grateful for this situation, and to the old lady driver (though I am not sure I’m ok with the fact that she has a license) because I learned a very valuable lesson. I am now being very aware of what my “go to” reaction and belief about a situation is, and if it’s anything more negative than neutral, I’m reminding myself in the moment that the situation is only what I make of it, and that I can shift my thoughts to more positive, affirming beliefs.
If you take a look at your life and your initial reactions to things, what do they tell you about your beliefs? The next time you have a quick reaction to any situation, take a step back and try to look at it neutrally so that you can become aware of what unconscious beliefs might be running your thoughts, and therefore your life. Since our beliefs create our thoughts, which equal our reality, it makes sense for us to be really aware of our initial reactions to things. And once you have the awareness, realize that your beliefs are just that, beliefs, and not the Truth. You can choose what to believe. You have the power to shape your beliefs, and therefore your life, just by becoming aware and choosing to see situations with new glasses on, not the fuzzy ones that are murking up what is really happening.
And watch out for clueless drivers on the PCH… Though you might learn a great lesson if you find one!
# # #
Erinn Selkis is a health and wellness counselor who compassionately supports her clients to improve all aspects of their lives through nutrition and personal growth. Check out her coaching website at http://www.erinnselkis.com.