One night after a 12-hour rehearsal for a parody production of The Wizard of Oz, I was driving home from the city, anticipating a relaxing night at home. I was in a great mood, having spent a long day playing the Cowardly Lion. I didn’t think there was anything that could wipe that satisfied smile off my face or stop my fingers from happily drumming to the radio.
But as the famous line goes, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
From good mood to frustration
There was construction on the Long Island Expressway—aka the world’s biggest parking lot. It was going to take me hours before I’d get home. The chances of spending time with my wife slipped away, minute by minute, brake light by brake light.
My great mood was fading fast and there was a change in my attitude. My frustration was turning into anger. I don’t know what came over me, but I just needed to vent. I began to shout obscenities in the voice of the Cowardly Lion (normal, right?). Just the thought of a scaredy-cat lion swearing like a truck driver made me laugh.
With traffic at a complete standstill, people were getting agitated. To make matters worse, some drivers were moving onto the shoulder of the road and then forcing their way back in line—something New Yorkers don’t take lightly.
Tempers were flaring, horns were sounding and people were cursing and making all kinds of inappropriate hand gestures. But I was behind the wheel of my car, in character, motioning to the other drivers: “Grrah, grraha, aha, aha, ahaaaa, I’m afraid! I wanna go home! I wanna go home! Everybody is cutting ahead! I don’t like traffic. I wanna go home! Ahaa, ahaa, haa!”
If you had seen the expressions on the faces of the people I passed, I guarantee you would have laughed, too. I could only imagine what they were thinking or saying…
“Don’t look at him, honey!”
“Lock the door and look straight ahead!”
“What’s wrong with that guy?”
“Please! Just keep driving!”
The foolproof way I change my attitude
So now, I like to vent my frustrations in the voice of a famous person or cartoon character, or in a funny accent. You think I’m crazy, right? But either way, the tension dissipates, my mood changes and I’m able to find enjoyment in the moment when I do impressions. I bounce back. And it works every time.
While you might think I’m nuts, and anyone witnessing my crazy antics might agree, at least I know I will be going home to my family, heading to a client meeting or making an important decision in a good mood and with my energy level cranked upwards. Why? Because I am able to change my state of mind.
I go from a bad mood to a good one just by making a slight change in my attitude: I choose to see the humor in a tough situation and allow myself the freedom to laugh. And I think this common sense success strategy is one that needs to be embraced in both the personal and professional spheres of life.
Choosing to defuse a stressful situation with humor is the fastest way I know to bounce back and change your attitude to one you need to succeed, while also enjoying the process of getting there. I guess you could call me the Wizard of Laughter.
This article was updated April 2023. Photo by stockfour/Shutterstock
Steve Rizzo is the Attitude Adjuster. You can’t attend one of his keynote speeches and leave with the same attitude. He’s a personal development expert, comedian, motivational speaker, and best-selling author. It’s no surprise that he’s been inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame, an honor bestowed upon on fewer than 250 speakers worldwide since 1977. You can find out more at www.steverizzo.com.