By Anna Goodwin Settle, PH.D.
What if we slowed down when that infuriating driver whizzes past us and what if we even actually dared to let him over? Maybe he’s in a hurry to pick up his daughter from daycare but couldn’t afford to leave a minute earlier and not earn the wage he needs to be a providing parent. Or, perhaps it is a woman who is rushing to see her elderly mother who, otherwise, would be eating a lonely meal in a newly empty home after losing her lifelong partner. Or maybe this is the person who is angry and resentful and rushing through life trying to reach a better place; always off-putting and relentlessly rejected by others. What if–just what if– we took the time to slow down and let them in?
From birth, we are taught about the importance of independent success. Unilateral decision-making; looking out for number 1; finishing on top.
Always. Do. Your. Very. Best. Be a winner. THE winner.
We all too often forget that there is so much to learn by sometimes simply taking the backseat and allowing someone else’s journey, needs, or situation to take precedence over our own. After all, in the end, the winner of the race simply took less time to run. But, the person who came in last, well, they got to spend the most time in the presence of others, doing what it is that they love. It’s all about our frame of reference and what we are willing to sacrifice in order to allow someone else to experience happiness.
In our bubble, we tend to get so hyperfocused on meeting expectations; our own expectations, our friends’ expectations…the expectations of Facebook and Pinterest and Vogue (the list is infinite). We begin to compare ourselves and our situations to people whom we perceive to be like us when, in actuality, we often couldn’t be more different from our ‘role models.’ We are so hyper focused on our ‘little world’ that forget that there are people in other parts of the world who are struggling to survive, unsure if they will have another meal or a warm bed. We are so distracted by the unrealistic demands this world places on us that we lose sight and, instead, engage in this tireless effort to keep up and stay on top.
This certainly does not mean that we need to feel guilty about our natural emotional reactions to the world in which we live. Not at all. It’s just a reminder that we will benefit by being mindful of all of the ‘noise’ that gets in the way of our ability to get back to the basics. To be aware of the ‘noise’ and not allow it to change your peaceful heart or centered mind. To simply be kind. To recognize that everyone is struggling with something. To slow down and let our natural inclination to love override our acquired desire to ‘win.’
I’ve actually been exercising this frame of mind over the last few months, or at least trying to. What I’ve found is that there is so much to be experienced in the presence of strangers when we allow them into our lives–like the homeless man on the corner asking for some change to whom I typically toss some cash and leave behind. All of those ‘shouldn’ts’ go through my head: You shouldn’t give him money because he’ll buy booze, you shouldn’t roll down your window because it’s dark and the kids are in the car…you shouldn’t, shouldn’t, shouldn’t… What I’ve found is that it is so much more rewarding to live less inside of my head and just roll with the natural inclination to reach out, to stop and talk, to help, and to hope that this person will allow me into his world for just a few minutes.
What if–just what if–we said “yes” when other people offer us the privilege of being part of their journey? What if we stop worrying about how we might get slighted and, rather, focus on how we can empower others? What if we use our gift, whatever that may be, to bring a little light into this world?
I don’t know about you, but I spend a lot of time running in circles and trying to get the necessary daily tasks accomplished. I don’t want the days to collect into a lifetime of frenzy. I’m simply suggesting that we slow down a bit, just a bit, so that, at the end of our collection of days, we can be content in knowing that we’ve used our gifts to effect some positive change in some small way. So, what if we were more intentional about being present for each other and simply took the time to think about how we could make today just a little bit better for someone else? What if we relished in someone else’s success? What if we chose compassion over judgment? What if we were open to the world around us and not closed off in our own little world? What if we simply let someone in?