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Choose to be Right, or Choose to be Happy.

Updated on March 14, 2015
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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.


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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.

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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.


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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.

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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.

Dr. Phil Even Said it

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    • Tamirogers profile image
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      Tami Rogers 2 years ago from Seattle, Washington

      Thanks Kirsten! Was just chuckling about this while I was driving this morning behind an incredibly slow car. I'm still working on it! :)

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Tami, this was a great hub about choosing to be happy. I agree with you here with your insights. Voted up for useful!

    • Tamirogers profile image
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      Tami Rogers 2 years ago from Seattle, Washington

      @tillsontitan...Thanks for stopping by..and you're right about them having not a clue..another good reason not to get so worked up!

    • Tamirogers profile image
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      Tami Rogers 2 years ago from Seattle, Washington

      @Fourishanyway..that is a great idea because my daughters both say the same thing! And they get upset when I get like that so imagining them sitting next to me is another great thing to visualize!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 2 years ago from New York

      You know when we get ourselves all bent out of shape we're the only ones who suffer. The person in the car aggravating you has no clue, they just drive on their merry way.

      Good thoughts Tami and though the subject is serious it was fun to read.

      Voted up, funny, and interesting.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      When I get frustrated in traffic, my teenage daughter points out that maybe it's a new driver and honking will make them even more nervous. I try to imagine her in their position. I like that you are spreading empathy.

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 2 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Dear Tami,

      THANK YOU so very much not just for the comment, but your following. I shall be sending you a Note of Thanks email in the near future to show you my gratitude.

      Again, thanks for such an interesting hub. Great advice.

      Stay in touch with me, Tami.

      Your New Friend for Life,

      Kenneth

    • Tamirogers profile image
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      Tami Rogers 2 years ago from Seattle, Washington

      Thanks so much Kenneth..glad you are my new friend! Now I can read all of your hubs too!

      Yes..this is a tough one to deal with sometimes..but it makes life so much better when you can act from a place that's not your just your ego protecting itself..my marriage is better for it too!

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 2 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Tami . . .

      Wow! What a profound hub. I had a very wise elderly guy tell me essentially the same thing years ago at a local TV station where I did volunteer work.

      His advice was to men who wanted a happy marriage was, do you want to be right or happy?

      What sense you made with these words.

      Voted up and away. Thank you for sharing your talent.

      Keep up the fine work.

      Your New Friend,

      Kenneth

    • Tamirogers profile image
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      Tami Rogers 2 years ago from Seattle, Washington

      Thanks @Billybuc..I didn't know why I was getting so crazy until I started looking closely at the behavior. Just proves you can still learn a lot at any age!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Tami, I think you are speaking for a whole lot of people. At least you are aware of your behavior and you're trying to change it, which is a huge step in the right direction.

    • Tamirogers profile image
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      Tami Rogers 2 years ago from Seattle, Washington

      Thanks Rochelle! I will keep that in mind. I really am a gentle, loving soul..I just can't believe sometimes how I can get like this..I felt I needed to write this hub for self preservation! (My husband nudged me too!)

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 2 years ago from California Gold Country

      Well, it seems you are right... about this, at least.

      Sometimes it helps to think that the person in front of you is your elderly mother-- or someone just like her, and they probably should not be driving at a speed exceeding their personal comfort level.

      Good luck in your quest. Seems like you are on the 'right' track.