The driver had picked me and my friend Sarah up from our downtown San Francisco meeting and was trying to get through the heavy downtown traffic so he could get us onto the freeway so my friend could make it to the airport in time for her to make her flight. Traffic was a bear and the stoplights weren’t helping. We’d been stopped at one of the lights when just our lane began creeping forward with the switch of the red light to green. The car in the lane next to us on the passenger side started pulling in toward the front corner of our car as if to try and squeeze in front of us. The driver of the other car had his driver side window unrolled and he was leaning out the window slightly as if preparing to make a gesture at our driver. Our driver, who had been looking forward, suddenly noticed this other car that was getting really close to the front corner of our car and turned his head toward the other driver to begin yelling angrily at him – then he saw the other man’s face and suddenly his entire demeanor changed. You could see the surprise in his face when he realized this man in the other car was his long lost friend he hadn’t seen in years who was trying to get his attention to smile and say hello. The two men were obviously thrilled to see each other – they smiled and waved enthusiastically and then they had to quickly drive ahead so the traffic behind them didn’t get more frustrated then they already were so our driver let this man cut in front of us and then we kept going.
Once the incident passed our driver looked into his rear view mirror back at my friend and I and said, “Hah…I was so angry at that man because I thought he was trying to cut me off but then I turned to see it was actually my old friend I haven’t seen in a very long time and I was so happy to see him!”
Our driver went from being angry to extremely happy in a matter of seconds – not because the event had changed, because this other car still ended up cutting in front of us, but because his perception of the circumstances had.
I couldn’t stop thinking about that experience on my flight home last night. I couldn’t stop thinking about how we can control our perception of things. We can control how we think about a situation. Let’s say the man had looked over at the other driver cutting us off and it wasn’t someone he knew – let’s say it had been a total stranger. Nonetheless, our driver had the choice to look at that other driver as he would a friend and smile and allow him to cut in front of him. If that happened our driver would have been able to experience that same feeling of happiness that he did upon seeing an old friend.
We cannot control every event that happens around us, but we absolutely can control the way we choose to perceive those events. The ability to change the way we choose to think about something is within all of our control to do. We control our thoughts and we can choose to reframe the way we think about things. We can choose to see things through a positive perspective.
HAPPINESS IS A CHOICE. MAKE IT!
~Amy Rees Anderson (author of the newly released book “What Awesome Looks Like: How To Excel in Business & Life” )