Would You Rather be Right or Happy?
In recent weeks Nola has been teaching me how to move on from conflict. She is a pro, but do I have it mastered? Not even close! However, I do feel like my response to a recent event was a great first step to mastering this craft.
In my last post I mentioned my success leaving behind a bad experience I had. Here’s what happened… On my way to the gym, I was trying to turn right at a red light. There was a lot of traffic that day, intensifying my impatience. When I finally saw an opening, I quickly made my move. As I began to hit the gas and inch forward, I turned my head to the right, only to see a guy lurch away from my car, trying to avoid being hit by ME! After some nasty looks and a moment to register what had happened (and what could have happened,) I was a little rattled.
I started my class, hopeful that I could “work it off.” But as I was doing my burpies and trying to ignore it ever happened, it still kept needling me. Ignoring it wasn’t helping, so I hoped that processing it would help me move on. First I was defensive:
Well, it’s obviously encouraged to turn right on red there… There is even a separate right lane to turn into… And besides, those people saw me there trying to turn right, so why couldn’t they have walked behind my car? I mean, I always do that to be helpful when I see a car trying to turn… I never cross in front of a turning car unless I can be sure the driver sees that I’m there… Blah, blah, blah.
Once I blew through all the rationalizations justifying why I was right, I didn’t feel any better at all.
Then something happened that surprised me. I shifted my thinking:
Well, yeah, okay, they did have the right to walk… They didn’t really do anything wrong, even if they should watch out for their own safety, too… In the end, I was wrong. I was a jerk.
Then something even more surprising happened. I took responsibility for my actions, and that made me feel a little better.
Instead of punishing myself for a mistake, I searched for a message. First, I had to admit that my impatience caused me to be careless. I also had to acknowledge to myself that my anxiety stemmed from a conflict the day before. I was still off-kilter from the previous day’s problems and was allowing it to affect my attitude and my actions. Not so great at letting that conflict go, was I? Then it hit me– this was a signal to simply slow down. This near accident was my warning, and “slow down” became my mantra all day. If I didn’t keep saying it to myself, I might forget and stay crazed.
Guess what happened? The whole energy of my day shifted!
Once I took responsibility for my actions and chose to find a positive spin, I was able to completely let go of the negativity surrounding it.
Whether it’s a near accident, a poor decision, or even a blunder at work, these mistakes can sit with us for far too long if we don’t find a way to manage our responses. Why did this work for me this time? At first I made excuses and accusations in an attempt to make myself feel better. I felt a need to prove that I wasn’t wrong– that I wasn’t a bad person. As one of my readers pointed out, shaking off conflict “is often hard because shaking it off might mean swallowing pride and that we didn’t ‘win’ – whatever that might mean.” How true. Holding on to being right actually made me hold on to the guilt and negativity of the story. The minute I made it okay to be at fault and find an opportunity to make a positive change, the problem dissolved right before my eyes, helping me move forward.
I know you’re like me in some way. You may be a perfectionist, you may hate to be wrong, hate to lose, or hate to get in trouble. Whatever it is that keeps you stuck in these moments, maybe the next time you can ask yourself…
Would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy?