Yesterday, upon returning to my car in the parking structure after a long class, I found the driver of the car parked next to me writing a note. As soon as he noticed me, he stopped writing the note and came around my minivan.
“This ain’t a compact car, look how much space you gave me. You’re lucky your s*** doesn’t get keyed.”
It didn’t seem to matter to him that I was clearly parked within the lines. I recognized his frustration, apologized, and went my way instead of attempting to defend myself. As I was driving home, I found that some of the negativity that the guy came to me with had rubbed off on me, and I was replaying what I could have said in that scenario.
Ironically enough, I have been reading Ryan Holiday‘s The Obstacle is the Way, a book full of proverbs based upon stoic philosophy and life lessons. I’ve found countless of situations where the topics discussed in the book are applicable to my daily life, but this situation was one I could not ignore.
Perception is seeing a situation from one’s own perspective, which is often skewed with different emotions and biases. Observation, on the other hand, is being able to see things for what they are, without any hype, emotions, or biases. Someone who perceives will often get caught in a cycle of reacting emotionally and irrationally, and can easily miss an opportunity or solution.
Have you ever noticed that it is much easier to be objective with other people’s problems than your own? Many times our own problems seem to be impossible, insurmountable, and hopeless until we decide to open up and have someone else take a look at our problems.
An outsider brings a fresh, observant perspective because they are usually able to see things for what they are without being tangled in a mess of emotions.
Instead of letting the situation bother me for the next couple of hours, I decided to first put myself in his shoes. He probably had a long day of classes too, and probably just wanted to get home, adding to the frustration when he found it would be difficult for him to get into his car.
Next, I put myself in an outsider’s perspective, seeing that I could have simply been a little more thoughtful next time I parked my minivan into a compact spot, even if I clearly was between the lines.
It’s not about who is right or who is wrong, but seeing the situation for what it is and seeing the lesson.
What stands in the way becomes the way. The obstacle is the way.