You are behind the wheel of your car testing its limits as you attempt to keep pace with the lead car and defensive driving instructor at Infineon Raceway. As you take the final turn and approach the finish line you don’t have to look in the rearview mirror, the roar and vibration of racing engines just behind you confirms that you could easily be overtaken should you hesitate. You feel the pressure inside: heart pounding, palms sweating, thoughts racing.
You are in a fight with your spouse. It doesn’t look like the marriage will cross the finish line if things continue in this direction. You feel the pressure inside: heart rate elevated, face flushed, and thoughts racing.
These are very different scenarios but each offers an opportunity to skillfully navigate challenging terrain while in a state of high physiological arousal. The finish line holds the dual rewards of greater self-confidence and empowerment.
When Jan told me about her driving experience at Infineon, the feel of newly found confidence was palpable in her. It was not the feeling that comes from hearing “You can do it!” It was the unshakeable knowing that came from having actually done it.
In a culture that puts so much emphasis on garnering self-esteem from collecting affirmations and accolades from others, we can easily lose sight of the fact that real confidence is a result of real experience.
There is an abundance of joy to be found in feeling real confidence in ourselves. And there is usually a loss of confidence and joy when we fail to navigate our states of physiological arousal. How can we feel good about ourselves when we repeatedly lose our temper and take it out on someone else? Or when we hold ourselves back from new adventures because of fear? Or don’t risk opening our hearts to love and friendship because we are keeping ourselves safe from disappointment and loss?
Think of a time when you found yourself aroused by anger (including its cousins—frustration, irritability, and resentment), or by fear (anxiety is it’s relative), or by sadness and hurt. Imagine each of these as an invitation to higher learning, providing you with a personalized curriculum for achieving greater confidence and joy.
The Road To Happiness
To get the lesson and reap its rewards you have to actually engage the challenge. Thinking about racing a car is not the same as actually being in the car, in the driver’s seat while your heart pounds and your palms sweat. What a thrill!
The same is true for dealing with the arousal that comes from difficult relational moments or challenging personal experiences. The learning we need in these situations comes from living into the discomfort and finding a confidence-building way through it.
There is definitely support to be found in learning how others deal with their states of discomfort and arousal. When faced with challenges some people count from 1 to 10, others breathe, still others imagine a safe, calming place. There are hundreds of tips available. But not one of them will work if you engage a challenge without establishing a strong intent to achieve a new level of self-mastery and take away the crown of confidence and joy.
The Real Commitment in Relationship
Too often we enter a relational encounter with no self-commitment. We get caught up in trying to win in the moment rather than committing to our personal and relational growth.
The biggest problem with looking to win in a relationship is that it’s like getting into a racecar and expecting the other driver to accommodate us or get out of our way. What’s the satisfaction in that? And what’s the joy in ending up at the finish line if you end up there all alone?
The Greatest Happiness of All
Not only does it feel great to earn your own confidence and feel the resulting joy, it also opens up the possibility for whole new levels of happiness.
There is a great and enduring happiness that comes from bringing your confidence and joy into your relationships and becoming a “lead car” in the exhilarating ride of living joyfully together.
Ohh the places you can go!
Jimmy Durante nailed it in his song:
“Make someone happy
Make just one someone happy
And you will be happy too!”
It feels so good to take a joy ride and bring along a lover or friend.
Listen to Jimmy and make someone happy: You!: