It is 3:45 pm on a Tuesday afternoon and you’re on your way home from work. You turn on the on-ramp to enter a main HWY. Rush hour is just beginning so the traffic is steady, but not too heavy yet. If you’re like me you get to the inside lane (fast lane) as soon as the opportunity allows. Max speed limit is 65 and Min speed limit is 45 (not many abide by the posted speed limit; they’re just suggestions, right?). You’ve made it to the inside lane, it’s pretty open, you’re cruising along at 74 MPH (this is my acceptable speeding limit), and life is good! A car in the lane next to you merges in front of you to go around the car that was in front of them. This car didn’t cut you off, but it is going slower than you. You assume, once it is around the car that was slowing it down, it will merge back into it’s lane and you can all go about your merry way. However, this is not what happens. The car that merged in front of you is not merging back to the lane in which it came from. You’re approaching the car rapidly, thinking that the driver will see you coming up behind and will move out of your way. Again, this is not what happens. You are now driving snugly behind this vehicle. The longer it takes the vehicle to merge over the more frustrated you become. Your thoughts start becoming more aggressive. Instead of thinking “He/She will move once they’ve noticed me behind them” your thoughts are now “Who do they think they are? This is the lane for faster traffic! Move over Ass-hat!” In fact, it’s very likely that you are now speaking your thoughts out loud in your vehicle. You could go around this vehicle by way of the middle lane, but there are universal expectations for multi-lane roads, so you aren’t moving. You are going to ride this persons bumper until they move out of your way! Seriously, who doesn’t know that the inside lane is for the fastest drivers, and each lane moving out from there gets slower and slower? You are now all worked up, your mood has changed, life is no longer good, and this day is shit! All because this person won’t merge into the slower lane. Man, what a jerk that driver is!
You finally arrive home, you’re cranky and irritable. Now everyone is getting on your last nerve. You’re short with your significant other, your kids, or perhaps your pet(s). You think to yourself, “What is with people today? Are they trying to upset me?”
Without even realizing it, you’ve let your expectations get the best of you. Because your expectations of someone you don’t even know, weren’t met, it has shifted your whole mood. It has potentially spread throughout your home. It could’ve spread to anyone you may have come in contact with after this encounter on the HWY, but before you arrived home…a gas station clerk, a cashier at the grocery store, etc. It’s possible that their interaction with you didn’t meet their expectations of a customer/stranger, and now they have taken on a mood shift and have spread it to other customers. How far reaching is this expectation we have of others?
Setting expectations of others will almost always end in disappointment, frustration, anger, resentment…the list of negative reactions goes on. We can’t make people behave in a way that we want them to, not anymore than they can make us behave in a way they want us to. But we can set expectations for ourselves. We can expect that the next time we find ourselves behind a car in the inside lane that we won’t let it upset us. We have choices. We can pass the slower car in the fast lane rather than get upset. We can slow down a bit; after all, the car is going 68 MPH in the posted Max 65 MPH zone. When we do get rubbed the wrong way by someone (and it is bound to happen, we are human), don’t take it out on the gas station clerk or the cashier at the grocery store. Be kind to them, smile at them. When they ask how you are today, tell them you’re good and ask how they are. Remember, before your inside lane encounter, life was good. As easy as it is to get upset and frustrated by people not living up to the expectations you’ve set for them, it is equally as easy to get happy by showing someone kindness.
I’m sure by now, you’ve figured out that I, like many of you, have been frustrated by people not meeting the expectations I’ve set for them. I used to get terribly frustrated and yell, to myself in my car, at people for not driving to the expectation that I set for them. I used to be the person thinking out loud in my vehicle all by myself, “Who do they think they are? This is the lane for fast traffic! Move over Ass-hat!” But the thoughts I should’ve been thinking out loud are “Who do I think I am, setting expectations for other people?” and “Who do I think I am, spreading my bad vibes to the gas station clerk and the grocery cashier?” Now when I am driving and I feel myself getting frustrated with the car in front of me, I will literally move to the outside lane. My expectations are far lower in that lane, and I have better control of my mood/vibe.
If you can relate and your mood shifts because someone isn’t living up to the expectations you’ve put on them, then I lovingly encourage you to get in the outside lane for a little while. Lower those expectations, slow down, and just breathe. I’ve found that this helps me. This can be done in any situation where you’ve put expectations on others, without their knowledge, not just with other drivers. The “outside lane” can be a walk, a short or long meditation practice, spending time in nature, going for a run. It can be anything that will lower or eliminate your expectation of others and calm you when you’re upset. For me, once I become aware that my mood is shifting because someone isn’t living up to the expectations I’ve put on them (without them knowing), I can better control my reaction and my mood towards them and everyone else I cross paths with thereafter.
And, of course it would be best just not to put expectations on others. We have a hard enough time living up to our own, how can we possible expect someone else to live up to expectaions they don’t even know about? But, we are human. We will do it again. It will change shift our mood. But now, hopefully when this starts to happen we will have an awareness of it and we can shift it before it shifts us.
…but that’s just me! Or is it 😉