This morning as I was making my way back after filling my car with gas, the toxic “ruin your day” trigger occurred.

I was driving along in the right lane of two lanes going straight.  There was one more lane to my right, which was a “right turn” only lane. The car in the ‘right turn” only lane was moving along until the driver suddenly changed lanes and darted in front of me. No turn signal—she just moved right in front of me. You all know the feeling and the drill. As I slammed on my brakes, you could hear a chorus of screeches as the domino effect of the sudden braking down the line behind me occurred.
My hand’s reflex pushed my horn as a warning as the woman driving the darting car went along her oblivious way, cell phone merrily in hand.

I decided to change lanes and pass her and several of the cars behind me followed suit, not quite sure what distraction was taking place in this driver’s car. I glanced over at the driver as I passed her and she gleefully smiled at me, took her driving hand off the steering wheel, and brandished her middle finger at me—all the while holding her cell phone in the other hand.

I could feel the heat rising in my body and the angry emotions stirring.

“How dare she have the nerve to send me such a cue, when she had so obviously been “in the wrong”?”

A sheepish apologetic look would have worked to settle my anger, or even looking away as if she was in total oblivion might have helped a bit. But flashing me the finger when she was the one changing lanes with no signal and merrily chatting on her cell phone? You’ve got to be kidding me!

So there it was. My body was in angry react mode—ready to throw my hands up in the air and yell back at this obviously irresponsible, dangerous driver. (Remember, I grew up in Athens, Greece—this automatic hand waving response was modeled well) My obvious lack of control over the other driver and the situation was beckoning my defiance–I would show her who was in control!

And then I did it.

I did what I keep training myself to do with my mind, and keep trying to help others do.

I took a deep breath and paused.

Just paused before my automatic reaction and asked myself the following simple questions:

“Would my angry reaction change anything? Would it help the situation or would it escalate the exchange?
Was I going to let this toxic energy encompass me and have this woman’s irresponsible behavior influence my behavior and the mood of the rest of my day?
Was I going to become a receptor of negativity and transmit more of the same?

Or …

“Was I going to take stock of the temporary toxic behavior over which I had no control and just let it go?”

In a split second I made the choice. I turned on the radio and shifted in my seat. I smiled. I could feel the toxic emotion fading away and a new one replacing it.

The irony of the matter is simple. I was “in control” all along. The woman in the other car was merely a trigger.
Everything else was my choice.

What about you?
Do you take the time to pause when a “ruin your day” trigger arises?
Do you do a mental run down of your choices or just react with emotion?
Do you blame others for your reactive choices and “loss of control”?

What works for you in those trigger moments to help you stay in a place of choice over your behavior?