My words, my world…
The other day, I was returning back home from campus. The traffic was unusually congested because of rains caused by a huge cyclone on the east coast of the country. Cars were moving bumper-to-bumper and tempers were high. Everybody wanted to get home as fast as possible.
At one point of my journey back home, their comes an underpass. Those who want to go towards the city have to go through it. And those, like me, who have to turn into Koramangala or IndiraNagar, have to come on a service road that is on the left and go over the bridge to the right that runs above the underpass. This service road is a very narrow one. Only one car can fit in. So to get onto it, I usually queue my car behind others on the left and naturally go towards it. But some of the other drivers are not so nice. They will go all the way as if they want to get to the city till the last inch of the divider and then quickly take a left to sneak in on to the service road. This causes conflict and road rage in everyone – especially in the driver who is at the head of the queue to get onto this service road. The space is not enough and both drivers have to jostle to get in.
So here is what happened with me that evening. I am queued up to get on the service road. I notice another car on my right trying to break the queue and come before me. We both jostle for space and enter the conflict zone. He wants to sneak in. I don’t let him. We both keep going till the mouth of the intersection. In my mind, I was very clear – he had broken the rule. He has no right to come in and I wont let him. I was so focused. Going home was not my objective anymore. Making the other driver not reach his home and teaching him a lesson became my objective. And I succeeded. The other drivers behind me also did the same to him and he had to struggle a lot to get in. Probably he learnt his lesson. I had won. But I was still very angry. My pulse was racing and I was very edgy till I reached home. My mind was crowded with angry thoughts, bad images and I was very surprised.
Next morning, I kept rewinding this incident in my mind as I drove back to campus for my class. The researcher and teacher in me was finding theories to explain my behavior and get to the bottom of it. Why was I so miserable despite doing the right and logical thing? And lo behold! another similar incident happened. This time, the driver came in from a small road on the side to cut through me to take a U-Turn. I was already in the conflict zone. My experiences of previous night were still fresh in my mind. The other driver also had a frown on his face as he tried to jostle through. We both saw eye-to-eye. I have no idea what came over me, but this time, I just smiled at this other driver,gestured him to come, stalled the entire traffic behind me and let him pass. This entire thing happened in less then 5 seconds. The other driver smiled back, lowered his window, said a polite thank you and went his way. The impact on me was magical. My entire day was brilliant. I had good thoughts in my mind and everything seemed nice and rosy.
In the first incident, I thought I was doing the right thing. I applied the best of my mind. I had “won”. But i was miserable after that. In the second incident, I just let it go. I let my heart take over and let the other person win. I loved it.
So I started experimenting with this approach more often. I realized when I “gave” or “let go”, I had a better day than when I “snatched” or “held on”. So just to have better days, I started letting go and giving more. And now it is slowly becoming a habit. I researched theories of decision making and behavioral psychology and found out that there are plenty of explanations for what I went through. We are conditioned to apply logic because that’s how the education system is designed. Our past experiences, culture, parents, elders, friends, society also condition our mind. My conditioned and logical mind told me that I should be in control and the other driver was taking control away from me by doing a wrong thing. That triggered another thought that he is a very bad man. That triggered another thought that I must do what is right and triggered another thought to teach him a lesson so that he doesn’t do it again. And it went on and on to gain control of the situation. The end result – it made me feel terrible. To be in control of everything can be very exhausting. But in the second case, I just let the control go. I let my feelings take over. I told myself “maybe he needs a little help”. And then another thought triggered “what’s the worst that can happen to me if I let him go?” and another “Alllll izzz well.” And finally, it worked. It felt great. You can check out various explanations on how our choices impact us by experts around the world. Some curated ones are here
Try it for yourself and share your experience of “letting go”.
About the Author
Rakesh Godhwani calls himself a nobody. He teaches, writes, reads a story to his kids every night before they sleep, bicycles his way to work when he can, does yoga, earns a fraction of what he used to, but lives a million times better. Follow him @godhwani or https://www.linkedin.com/in/rakeshgodhwani Read his other posts at https://rakeshgodhwani.wordpress.com