Calmer Than You Are

If there’s one thing that never fails to make me angry, it’s a traffic light changing as I’m approaching it.

I’m talking unnaturally angry. Like, expletive spewing, steering wheel punching angry.

And for what reason? Because I’ve just been halted for a minute? Because of the (relatively) minor inconvenience of having to come to a stop and wait?

Yes. All of the above.

But why does it bother me so much?

Your guess is as good as mine. I suspect it has a lot to do with my patience, or rather, my lack thereof.

So step one is identifying the problem. Which I have done here. Step two is taking action.

I read a post on Leo Babauta’s blog zenhabits that outlined a strategy on making any moment better. His solution was to let go of the tightness, and he gives the following advice on how to achieve it:

  1. Notice the tightness. Pay attention to your body and mindset as you do any activity: work, meetings, driving, walking, reading, cleaning, talking with a loved one. If you notice tightness, that’s your cue.
  2. Visualize it dissipating. Just imagine the tightness floating out of you and into the air, dissolving into little bits and then being blown away by the breeze. The simple act of this visualization can often work.
  3. Go from tight to loose. You can practice this right now. Pause for a second and clench your fists. Now relax them. It’s that easy. Do it with your jaw. Now your abs. Now your shoulders. You can let go of tightness just by softening, letting go of the tightening that you’re creating yourself. It works for the mind too.
  4. Breathe. Take in a deep, slow breath. Let your attention stay on this breath. Hold the breath in for 5 seconds, then slowly exhale and pause for another 5 seconds at the end of the exhale. Repeat a few times if you like. This can help loosen you up if you need it. If you don’t need it after Step 2 or 3, you can skip it.
  5. Smile. This transforms everything. You can now approach any activity, any moment, with an attitude of relaxed enjoyment.

In my case, I’ll simply substitute anger for tightness, or rather, deem anger my “tightness.”

By the way, the title of this post comes from this bit from The Big Lebowski:

In this clip The Dude, who is normally calm and reserved (look at his “just take it easy, man” attitude) is flipping out, and the guy who was moments before waving a gun in someone’s face states he’s “calmer than you are.” Anyways, that’s your totally off-the-wall and random explanation.

So for the next week, I’m going to follow the above 5 steps to achieve zero anger at traffic signals. And when I look over to the person next to me and see them losing their cool, I’ll chuckle and whisper “I’m calmer than you are…”

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