Choose to be Right, or Choose to be Happy.
Being Right Has a Cost.
Most of us have heard the old adage "Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?"
Of course my answer is "happy". Doesn't everyone feel that way? But why is it so much harder to practice in real life?
I've always fancied myself a levelheaded, loving, kind, human being. I have a compassionate and caring nature. But sometimes, I seem to turn into someone else. A raving, raging, intolerant maniac. Someone I don't even recognize.
Who is This Raving Maniac?
In the car, I am screaming at the person in front of me "to learn the rules of the road and at LEAST go the "bleeping" speed limit!" I am yelling expletives at the television news as the latest in politics are playing out. I am screaming into the phone at the person who has put me on hold for 10 minutes. Why? Because they are all SO WRONG. I am a better driver, would make a MUCH better politician and I would never put anyone on hold for more than 30 seconds. In other words, I am right.
As I am in the middle of this "rant" my neck and shoulders tense up and start hurting, my heart is beating out of my chest. Being right is making me miserable and costing me my physical and psychological well being. In short, it is costing me my happiness.
Where Does This Behavior Come From?
Most people don't realize that the choice to be right or be happy is present in most situations you'll find yourself in.
Your ego will fight to the death to be right. That is just what the ego is designed to do. Unfortunately the ego's need to be right has been known to ruin relationships, work environments and even drag entire nations into war.
I learned a long time ago in my relationships that being right does not mean being happy. I found this has been especially true in marriage. My husband and I have disagreements about things, every couple does. But I think we have both learned that there is a time to respect the other person by taking a step back from a heated argument and figure out "Is this really worth it to me?" Is "being right" damaging my relationship? Am I listening to the other person's perspective or is my ego trying desperately to come out on top?
What I need to figure out is how to apply this same state of respect in my everyday life, sometimes with complete strangers.
The Happiness Experiment
Almost every time you feel the need to be "right" you have another choice. Being aware that there IS a choice, is the first step to recognizing your own behavior. Rather than having my ego make the choice (which it always does) I decided to do a little experiment. In the most intense situations where I most wanted to be right (like in the car for me), to consciously choose to be happy instead.
So I made a plan. Every day, I drive about 10-25 minutes, depending on traffic, along a certain road to get onto the freeway. Inevitably, there is always a car ahead of me choosing to go at least 5-10 miles under the speed limit, which I believe is already too slow. Though this is generally just a 10 minute drive (depending on the time of day) it is where I get most bent out of shape. So I decided to try out my happiness experiment on that drive, the following morning.
Not Going to be Easy
Granted, I did not have huge expectations. But I did approach my drive a little differently. I loaded my favorite 80's music on my iphone and cranked it up. Luckily, it was a gorgeous, sunny day so I opened up the sunroof. I stayed away from my usual huge cup of coffee I would normally drink along the trip.
Sure enough, I entered the parkway and the driver I got behind was going slow. I took deep breaths. I focused on the music. Then I began to think about what it would feel like to let this person be right. That they were going the speed they needed to go, and I didn't have to honk or try to teach them a lesson. My heart definitely slowed down a bit and my shoulders relaxed.
Is Change Even Possible?
The question is, will this really last?
In my opinion, not without a whole lot of practice. And I have to admit, I caught myself later in the day about to use expletives on a different driver. The point is, however, that I caught myself. Once again, I was trying desperately to be right. The ego really is a powerful force, but they say being aware is the first step to making a change. I'm really hoping that's true. And not just for me, but for the sake of that poor soul that puts me on hold next time I need to call Comcast.