The journey of your life is full of potential problems and hazards. You’ll encounter them all the time. And in many cases, you’ll react badly and cause more damage. I’m not talking about you specifically – everyone does this. But don’t worry, I’m going to show you how to stop.

First, imagine you’re driving down a road at some reasonable clip. Up ahead, you spot a large pothole, right in the middle of the road. That pothole represents the problem. What most people do is react to the situation, often with anger or frustration. “There shouldn’t be a pothole here! Someone should have taken better care of this road! It isn’t my fault that there’s a pothole here, so I shouldn’t be held accountable for the outcomes!” And they’ll drive right into the pothole, yelling the whole time about how the resulting damage to their car shouldn’t be their responsibility.

What gets in the way of their clear thinking is this: they’re right. There shouldn’t be a pothole there! It was someone else’s responsibility to fix it! It isn’t their fault that the pothole is there, so someone else should be taking responsibility! But guess what?

Being right is not the same thing as getting what you want!

So, skip the situation itself, for a moment. Take a deep breath, and ask yourself: what do I really want? I know a secret – you don’t really want the pothole fixed. You don’t care. What you want, is to be safely on your way with no damage to your car. And in order to get that, you have to work backward from that result.

You have to say, “I want to be safely on my way. What’s the best way to get that, given this situation? It seems like the best way is to slow down, carefully take the shoulder, and edge past the pothole before speeding back up.” That can feel like a bother, because why should you have to? You didn’t put the pothole there!

I will say it again: being right is not the same thing as getting what you want!

If you focus on being right, you will miss out on a lot of what you want. Almost all of that comes from focusing on the situation itself, rather than focusing on what you want your life to be like on the other side of it. Problems are temporary. Don’t waste time thinking about the kind of person you want to be during a problem. Think about the life you want after, and take the best route to that life. The pothole will soon be far in your rearview mirror.

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