Did you know that lots of people, without even realizing it, own a BMW? Some spend a lot of time driving while others do so from time to time. Many BMW owners take pride in theirs, polishing them, relishing in the experience. Others realize that it’s a means to an end and only use their BMW’s for the intended purpose.

So, what exactly is this BMW I’m referring to? It’s not the fine vehicle of German engineering, rather, it’s something that many people do — Bellyache, Moan, and Whine. You’ve met these types of drivers throughout your career: recruiters who constantly complain about their candidates not being placed, account managers who whine about leaving lots of messages and not getting return calls, and managers who rant about what the staff is doing wrong. BMW driving is certainly not limited to work. Spouses, kids, neighbors, significant others, teachers, and parents often spend varying amounts of time bemoaning the state of affairs in their lives.

To make matters worse, BMW drivers often drive in packs, as though they were at the racetrack. The lead driver starts the race by grumbling about some injustice in life. Soon, others jump into the draft to add their two-cents about the issue and add additional complaints of their own. Behind them, more BMW drivers join these ranks spewing their own exhaust of gripes, kvetching, and fuss. Before you know it, the race is fully on with everyone in the office or household fully engaged in the race to see who can be the most disgruntled of all.

Just because someone owes something does not mean it has to be overused. Done right, driving a BMW for just a few minutes, as needed, not only saves gas (which is time and energy in the case of being human), it invites and entices others to drive just as responsibly. Like attracts like, so a culture in which people vent frustrations in a healthy way woos others to do the same.

When you see others overusing their BMW, you can offer this four-step method for processing aggravations in a more effective way:

1. Stop
Like a five-car pileup on the highway, the reaction to a situation can quickly turn into a damaging problem. The saying “my mouth engaged before my brain” comes to mind. Similar to slamming on the brakes when there is an obstacle in the road, people can stop themselves and their brains to catch up with the circumstances at hand.

My client Robert’s vacation mishap is a great example. There stood Robert in the teeming mass of humanity that was LAX airport only to find out that all flights were cancelled. At first, he hopped into his BMW and hit the accelerator. “I’ve got things to do, don’t they realize what a problem this is going to cause in my life,” yelled Robert. The cacophony of disgruntled passenger voices grew as everyone else joined the race.

With Robert was his five-year-old daughter Elizabeth. As she was watching the reactions of the adults around her, she started tugging on her father’s pant leg. After a few tugs she got his attention, at which time she said, “Daddy, you just need to stop, breathe, and think. That’s what my teacher always says when I get upset.”

His daughters sage advice stopped him his tracks. Just stopping his participation in driving a BMW eliminated the momentum it was having on his negative thinking and allowed him to heed her advice to take the next important action.

2. Breathe
Cars need oxygen to create the combustion to propel them forward just like people need this important fuel to engage their mental capacities. As Robert took a few breathes, he calmed down, cleared his mind, and he began to look at his surroundings. Within a few moments several ideas started popping into his head.

3. Think
Not all ideas are created equal and this was true for Robert. He immediately dismissed the crazy of ideas of rushing the airline counter to demand a full refund and renting a car to drive over 3,000 miles to his home. The thought he did act upon was simply dialing his cellphone.

4. Act
Robert had decided to call the airline. He explained that he was in a line at the airport waiting to rebook a cancelled flight. He suggested that he reduce the number of angry passengers in that line by rebooking his flight on the phone.

He was told the next available flight wouldn’t be until two days later. “OK,” he said. “I’ll go back to the hotel where we were staying and send the airline the bill.” They agreed. Within minutes, Robert had rebooked his flight, extending his vacation by two days at the airline’s expense and he was able to handle filling his open client orders from his hotel.

Robert’s story is a perfect illustration of what to do with a BMW. It is a turbo-charged indicator that there is action needed to alleviate frustrations. Then, it’s time to quickly park and stop, breathe, think, and act. Now that is a great driving experience.

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