* 6 minute read *
When I was in New Zealand just the other week, I had an interesting experience in the taxi on my way to the airport to fly home. I’d entered the journey from my AirBnB apartment to the airport in Google Maps and it told me it was a half an hour trip, so I called a taxi and allowed myself half an hour to get to the airport.
Unfortunately it was Friday afternoon on a long weekend in Auckland and the traffic was a disaster! What I thought would be a quick trip to the airport turned into a one hour and fifteen minute marathon!
I’ve missed three plane flights in my life and missing these flights has taught me to be ultra-conservative and always arrive with heaps of time to the airport before a flight.
However…on this occasion, even my most conservative planning didn’t account for this epicly long taxi-ride to Auckland aiport.
It’s really interesting what happens when we find ourselves in a stressful and challenging situation. There was a point during my taxi ride where I started to realise that we were going to be late because of the traffic and that I could potentially miss my flight. I started to get stressed and I am not proud to admit it, but I started to take this tension out on the taxi driver.
My automatic behaviour kicked in and I started to challenge the taxi driver about the route he had taken me on. I had begun to suspect that he was trying to rip me off by taking me the long way and I started to get angry in a disrespectful way. Just as I felt this anger start to bubble to the surface, I paused. And this is where I want to pause the story to ask you some questions:
When you are in a difficult situation; a crisis or a challenge, is there a part of you that tells you that normal behaviour doesn’t apply and that it’s OK and even justified to behave poorly?
Have you ever met someone who is polite and kind under normal circumstances but when things get tough or out of control, they lose it and reveal a split-personality?
I’m not wanting to judge anyone here. We all face difficult circumstances and we all do the best we can with what we have in any particular situation.
However, it is important to remember that we always have a choice and that we define ourselves not by how we choose to act when things are comfortable, but by how we act under pressure.
So, how did I go on to react toward my taxi driver?
I stopped and checked my behaviour. I saw my two choices; one, to be abusive and blame the taxi driver for the stress I was allowing myself to be affected by or the other; to be the best that I can be in that situation. I realised in that moment that this was more than a simple taxi ride. This moment actually defined who I am! I realised that to be awesome meant that in that particular moment more than ever, I needed to act with integrity.
We define ourselves by how we act under pressure.
It’s in these moments that our programming, conditioning, hidden prejudices, biases and automatic habits emerge.
So, are we bad people if we lose it under pressure? No way. We all make mistakes and I don’t believe any of us would willingly want to behave poorly or treat others poorly in difficult circumstances. As I said, we all do the best with what we have at any given moment of time and often a lot of what we have is based on past conditioning. Our conditioning can be complex and hard to unravel, but it is these difficult situations where we behave in these not-so-nice ways that teach us great things about the hidden parts of ourselves.
We can’t always behave the way we might hope to, but what we can do is accept that life is supposed to be uncertain and tumultous. That’s the default setting! We are meant to experience great highs and lows and the whole range of human emotions and experiences in between. We can also choose to see that these stressful and challenging times are opportunities for our greatest learnings.
We can also choose to “pattern interrupt”. To pattern interrupt is to consciously identify an automatic behaviour that we choose to change and attempt to catch ourselves when we are enacting this behaviour and “interrupt” it. This is about stepping outside of our situation at times and observing our own behaviour and asking ourselves if this is really how we choose to behave.
So, back to my taxi experience. Instead of blaming the taxi driver I chose to be awesome instead.
I ended up choosing to surrender to the situation. I realised that the reality was that my taxi driver had no control over the traffic and neither did I. If I was going to miss my plane then that was just the way it was going to be. And, I was quite enjoying New Zealand so it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I had to stay for the weekend! I ended up joking playfully with my taxi driver and generally just turning the situation around to be one of fun, and my taxi driver responded with some crazy, rally driving, weaving and out-thinking traffic light intersections. I made it to the airport just in time. And it all worked out.
While this might have been a simple taxi ride, I know we all have bigger and uglier challenges to face on a daily basis.
If you are in the middle of a crisis, facing a breakdown or a massive challenge, I want you to stop and consider.
Could this moment in fact be your greatest opportunity to show your true, unique awesomeness?
Could this be a gift from the universe for you to step up and show just what it means to be awesome and to show who you really are?
How can you define this moment, rather than letting it define you?
These moments are so important and it’s very easy to give ourselves excuses to behave poorly.
But why not Be Awesome instead?
Til next week!