“How are we today? Are we happy, relaxed, in good shape?” My boss was full of bonhomie at eight o’clock in the morning.
I shrugged. I had a meeting in Coventry at ten o’clock. There was no time to waste in small talk. I drove onto the ring-road, my mind full of my forthcoming meeting. It was going to be tough, explaining to a customer why we were having difficulty meeting his product specification, and persuading him to change it. Even before the meeting I had eighty miles of rush hour traffic to negotiate in a little under two hours.
A silver Ford pulled out in front of me at a roundabout. I swore, and braked harshly. I was too busy checking the other traffic to extend the middle finger of friendship to the idiot, even though he richly deserved it. Still, it wasn’t too long before I was on the motorway.
I’m a careful driver. I don’t break the speed limit. I was in lane two travelling at seventy when this stupid person in a blue Vauxhall wobbled out of lane one right in front of me. He bumbled along at sixty-five. Lane three was full of traffic, so I couldn’t overtake. I just had to sit there grinding my teeth until he completed overtaking the car transporter and pulled back into lane one.
I reached my customer with five minutes to spare, feeling like I’d already done a day’s work.
I felt that other drivers had driven badly, and maybe they had, but did my anger at this do any good? Even if they’d noticed me, would it have changed the way they drive? Of course it wouldn’t.
Driving becomes a lot less fraught when we realise that we aren’t responsible for the way other people drive. It’s not our job to fix their bad habits. There is absolutely no need at all to become angry, because it won’t get us to our destination any quicker, and it might make us less safe.
Mindfulness can help with this. When we practise mindfulness, we aim to become aware of our emotions as they happen. The first step to avoiding anger is to recognise when we are becoming angry. Being aware of the emotion as it happens gives us the space to say, “I don’t need to be angry,” take a deep breath, and relax.
Mindfulness can help us to be more relaxed when driving. Why not give it a try?