I was sitting in the drive-through line at Einstein Bagel early one Sunday morning when I suddenly remembered I had a frequent customer card. I opened my wallet, found the card, and quickly noticed the 12th bagel hole wasn’t punched. I counted the hole punches. There were 12. Yes, I said to myself, I don’t have to pay for this batch of bagels.
Then the thought storm exploded.
“What if they argue with me and say the 12th isn’t punched?”
“But I have 12 holes punched. Who cares if it isn’t in the right spot? They punch the holes, not me.”
“Maybe I should pay this time and avoid any issues. I don’t really like confrontation.”
“Stop, Bruce. This is crazy. Just show them you should get it free.”
“What if they think I am trying to scam them?”
“What the f— is wrong with me. I am 45 years old, and I am afraid of the drive-through bagel guy.”
Thought after thought came, and as usual, I felt butterflies deep in my stomach. Old and familiar feelings of angst and insecurity flooded my mind. I hate this feeling. I work really hard to avoid such uncomfortable feelings, and here they are ambushing me in the drive-through line at Einstein Bagel.
Then in a flash, I woke up. I realized my thinking in the moment was creating my feelings. The bagel guy is NOT responsible for my angst. But, this pattern feels so familiar and normal. For my whole life, I have attributed my feelings to my experience/circumstance. Isn’t that how the world works?
No. The source of my feelings—confident or insecure, sad or glad, happy or mad—is my moment-to-moment thinking. My anxiousness is coming from within me and NOT the bagel guy.
I saw how I psychologically experience the world—from the inside-out—as my mind-set determines my perception. My anxiousness didn’t immediately fade, but I smiled as I realized my feelings are attributable to my thinking, and not my experience. I then thought, okay, what now? I still feel this knot in my stomach, and I want it to go away, immediately.
I took a spontaneous deep breath and remembered my feelings are not right or wrong, or good or bad. Rather, my feelings are a barometer telling me whether or not to listen to my thinking. I decided to ignore the content of my thoughts (despite my intense thought storm telling me not to ask for my free bagels), and ask for my free bagels.
And it played out just as I had feared. I asked for my free bagels. The drive-through employee took my frequent customer card, looked confused, and got the manager. The manager insisted the 12th hole wasn’t punch so no free bagels. I smiled and said, “Please, count the holes.” We went back and forth, all the time the butterflies in my gut moving. Finally, he agreed to give me the free bagels.
As I drove away, another thought storm and accompanying fear suddenly arrived.
“What do they think of me?”
“Do they think I am a jerk?”
“Did I do anything wrong?”
But this time, I was more aware of what was happening. I knew my moment-to-moment thinking was creating my angst, and not my interaction with the bagel guy. Feeling a bit lighter, I smiled and drove off to get my morning green juice.
My butterflies naturally died down as I looked in this new direction. Beautiful.