The Zen of Heavy Traffic

Here in Detroit, the arctic weather has delivered one giant mess on the roads. Colleagues of mine have reported downtown commutes as long as 2.5 hours for a ride that would normally take 35 minutes. The seemingly endless traffic causes mere frustration for the patient person and outright rage for the flustered.

While waiting at a dead stop on the freeway, seething about the time I was squandering, I took a deep breath and decided to change my perspective. Whether I was furious or serene, the traffic would not change a hair. I could grind my steering wheel with white-knuckle desperation, yet not a single car would move faster. I realized I also could get into the groove with my favorite jazz on the radio, using my energy to explore the possibilities and enjoy the moment, and I would get to my office not a minute sooner.

We all have things in life that trigger emotions. Pet peeves come in as many breeds as pets themselves. Rain may annoy one person, while a friend’s poor grammar provokes another. Currency fluctuations, prices of raw materials, or gridlock in Congress could drive any one of us into a place of fear and anger. Yet we have absolutely zero control over these external forces. Perturbed or peaceful, our emotional response will not change the outcome whatsoever.

It is profoundly liberating when you realize how pointless it is to get upset about the things you can’t control. Stressing about the situations outside your sphere of influence will do nothing but drive you batty. Instead, you can recapture this brainpower and put it to far better use.

As the world comes your way at warp speed, take in each stimulus and ask yourself whether it is something you can or cannot affect. If it’s the latter, let it go. Stressing over that which cannot be changed is as fruitless as trying to change a traffic jam by willing cars off the road.

Harness every ounce of your energy and concern over the things you actually can impact and you’ll be well on your way to crafting a better outcome in all areas of your life. Your own journey will accelerate like a six-lane highway without a single speed bump, toll station, or careless driver in sight.