I fly many times a month as part of my work as a professional speaker. It is always interesting traveling, always an adventure and never boring being on planes and trains and taxis.
When I travel, here is what I notice when flights are delayed or cancelled: people freak out, get angry and just are so over the top mad. They fuss and fume and stomp and scream and yell at the poor airline employee across the desk. I watch these scenes unfurl and my question is this: What is the point of getting so upset? Does the TSA care if you are upset? Does the airport care if you are upset? Does air traffic control care if you are upset? Seriously, does the airline really care about it if you are upset? The answer is no, no, no, and no.
So, the big question is, can you choose to not be upset? Can you choose to not be angry? Can you really choose your response? Can you choose not to get worked up and frustrated? Can you choose to not have a negative reaction? Yes. Here are some techniques to help develop your ability to choose your response.
- Know that you have a choice. In any moment of your life you can choose to be in any state of any emotion you select. If your flight is delayed you can choose to say “oh well” and decide not to get upset. You have the ability to do so. You can’t control what happens to you, but you can control how you respond, and that gives you actual power and control over a situation. It is a great feeling to say, “I am not letting that upset me, if it upsets me, I lose and it wins.”
- Think about alternative responses. Maybe say to yourself a simple “it could be worse” statement, like “I was in a fender bender, and it could have been worse, at least no one was hurt.” You could also say “this isn’t worth getting upset about. I am not going to waste my time and energy.” You can just choose not to get worked up and upset. Keep in mind it could always be worse.
- Don’t make everything a catastrophe. I just want to chuckle when people say “well I have to say this is the worst thing that has ever happened to me”. Not everything is a disaster. I recently had a guy sit next to me in coach who was furious that he was not in first class. He told me he always got upgraded and was very upset. I mean, really? Excuse me for a moment, did anyone die? Were you injured for life? Then it is not a catastrophe! It’s something that happened to you so get over and move on. Look, let’s be real here; there are people in hospitals across the world who wish that was their problem, but they are in a room wondering if they will go home. As my wife often says “if it’s not fatal it’s no big deal.” It’s all about changing your perspective.
- Have something to distract you. I was recently on a plane, and we pulled back from the gate and then there was a “maintenance delay”, and we sat on the plane for two hours. Many people were furious and calling the airline from the plane on the tarmac. I sat back and opened my bag with my Kindle (loaded with books), my music player and headphones. I also had a briefcase with several projects I could work on. So if I am delayed, I am going to just do something else and use the time, and forget about the wait. It’s like having your own time machine, and making your own time.
- Learn your emotional triggers and how to control them. I was in Texas speaking to a group and a guy told me he had “road rage.” As a result of his lack of emotional control, when a guy cut him off, he got out of his car and got in a fist fight with the other driver. He said he always had road rage and was “wired that way.” The reality is you need to be aware of your emotional triggers, the things that get you really mad too quickly and decide other ways to handle them, like delaying your response or learning how to change your response.
Every moment is a choice!