Can you be patient in traffic?

Did you ever think about the fact that when you're driving, lots of people see your behavior? And that behavior in traffic is almost virally contagious?

I woke up in a bad mood on Wednesday morning, unhappy with the result of the election. As I got ready to leave home, my mood made me think about one of the ways we express our emotions in public: driving. Getting in the car, I was tempted to project my mood onto everyone else. I thought people would be driving super aggressively, and I imagined I'd get sideswiped and slammed into as I merged onto the freeway. (Wow! Was I ever in a BAD mood.) 

I was on my way to teach four fitness classes to four groups of people I love dearly. Feeling so, so down, I knew it would be hard to bring the fun energy to leading the classes that day. As I got in the car and started driving, fortunately I remembered once again that it's up to me how I treat other people in traffic. Just as on any other day, I could and would decide how I was going to drive, instead of acting out. All day I was patient in traffic, stopping and waiting for pedestrians without crowding them, or not rolling through a stop sign to beat the other car. I also restarted courtesy-waving to people who let me change lanes. (What happened to the courtesy wave? Let's bring it back!) 

It felt really good to slow down and be patient. In fact, it changed my mood. 

Whenever I can be conscientious enough to drive considerately, regardless the mood I'm in, I feel better. Driving is a great opportunity to choose our public persona. Anything kind or unkind that we do in traffic is possibly witnessed by more people than most other things we do all day. For an average person like me, driving is my most public act. I haven't yet figured out a grand way to make the world a better place. But when I maintain a patient, courteous driving style, I believe I'm affecting other people a little bit, and it helps make my day better too.

Of course, my fitness training is another way of trying to make the world a better place. I'm a small-scale "influencer," just a few people at a time.

What's your most public action in your everyday life? Who are the people who find you influential?