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Getting off the Runaway Train

I was reading “Random Acts of Kindness”, when I came across this story. It is about one gentlemen’s fury that was turned to humility and resulted in him receiving what he desired.

I was standing in line getting ready to board a plane when this guy comes rushing up to the ticket counter. He had obviously been running…through the terminal and was furious when the woman at the counter told him his reservation had been cleared and his seat given away. She offered to get him a confirmed seat on the next flight, which unfortunately was not leaving for nearly five hours, but he would have none of it. He started screaming about how important it was that he get to Chicago by seven, how irresponsible the airline was when, after all, he had a confirmed ticket, how he wanted to see the supervisor, and on and on and on.

After reading this, it made me stop and think of how many times my actions do not match up with the person I desire to be. It almost feels like an out of body experience when these moments happen. I can hear and see myself saying and doing things that are contrary to what I really want and all I can do is think, “What am I doing?” But however much I want to be making better choices; it almost feels like I can’t seem to stop myself. The situation feels like a runaway train that has jumped the tracks and headed off into unknown territory.

I have found that this often happens when the thoughts I am having before the situation occurs, are mostly self-focused. For example, I find my thoughts focused on what I don’t like, what I am not getting, and how something that is going on affects me (usually in a negative way). What seems to follow after these thoughts is a situation I don’t like or I find something in it not to like, and then commences the out of body experience where my actions are not what I would prefer them to be. After it is over, I and the unlucky soul, who happened to be the outlet of my negative feelings, are left reeling from the episode.

It takes a moment for the flurry of negative feelings to settle, but once they pass I am left feeling horrible. I feel sad, tired, sorry, and defeated. How could I do those things? That’s not the kind of person I am. And yet, that was me not a moment ago doing those very things. I am then left trying to figure out how I got from here to there when I was actually headed for someplace completely different.

I spent many years beating myself up because I was not able to be the person that I desired at all times. Let me tell you, this is not very productive. It only serves to make one feel worse so that you can never really see how to go about making the positive changes that you are beating yourself up over. We do need to acknowledge our mistakes and make amends when necessary, but I believe it is time to leave the rack and coals with the Spanish Inquisition. As we pursue becoming better, I feel we need to give it our all with the understanding that we are not perfect and mistakes happen.

After many years of studying, I have finally come to a new understanding of how to make the positive changes that will help me be the person I have always desired to be. The common theme taught in many of my studies is that our thoughts lead our actions. When I made these mistakes, I never stopped to see why I was reacting the way I did. A key here is, I was reacting. Another is that my negative thoughts were leaving me predisposed to seeing negativity and reacting negatively. Also, by being consumed by self-focused thoughts there was little room to think about how someone else was feeling or being affected.

In the second half of the story from “Random Acts of Kindness”, the gentleman changes his actions, which brings about the very outcome he desired.

Finally he stopped his tirade and, in a very quiet voice, said, “I’m really sorry. I’m just completely stressed out and I can’t believe I am going to miss this meeting.” Right then an old man, who had been standing in front of me in the boarding line watching this whole thing, stepped up to the counter and said, “Here, take my seat. I’m retired and I’m in no real hurry to get anywhere.” The guy was so happy and so ashamed at the same time it looked like he was going to cry. Then he took the ticket and got on the plane.

Here we see what can happen when we are able to put the brakes on the train and redirect its course. It can be hard and can give us the perception of being humiliated, but in reality it is simply showing humility. When we can regain control of our thoughts and begin to see how others are affected besides ourselves, we can gain a foot hold in changing our behavior which will help change the outcome. This story is a good example of what can happen when we stop reacting long enough to think. And by doing so we are in a better place to receive what we were after in the first place.

So the next time a runaway train pulls in for you to board, take a moment and check to see if that’s really where you want to go. And if you are already on that runaway train, remember, it’s never too late to get off. In either case, it will be well worth the effort and you’ll be happier in the long run.

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