12 Most Indispensable Life Lessons I Learned from Bad Drivers
I’m a superior driver and so are you, of course. But out there, in the great big ocean of highways, streets, back alleys, and shopping mall parking lots are they — the bad drivers.
Your system goes into emotional overdrive, when your car is stuck between a curb and a 6-point turn driver. Do you frequently talk to drivers from your inner car sanctum? I used to (ok I still do), but I have learned these life lessons along the way:
1. Commit to a lane
Bad drivers love to weave in and out of a lane. Ever notice that? Usually I’m yelling ‘commit to a lane’ loud and clear. As I pass in the fast lane, the person is often putting on makeup, texting, shaving (yes shaving!!!) or reading a map. Some things, like driving, need our full attention. In life, our goals, our vision requires our full attention too. Ever find yourself over-committed? Too many projects on the go? Your hand in too many pies? If so, you are a life weaver and you are failing to commit to a lane. You will get nowhere fast and probably annoy people along the way. Pick a road you wish to travel and stick with it. When you change roads or goals, be prepared to leave the old stuff behind.
2. Signal ahead of time
People love to think about themselves, especially in the car. It’s easy to forget there are other cars on the road. The driver gets to the intersection, and puts on the left turn signal, at the last minute. Arrrg. As frustrating as this is, I realized it is just as common in relationships, management, and parenting. This lack of ‘signaling ahead of time’ is everywhere. Deadlines are pushed forward, memos are missed, and dinners at the in laws appear out of nowhere. We are blindsided all the time. The only way to solve this signaling problem is to plan for extra space. You need a buffer. Just like with driving, when you leave a half car length in front (you knew that right) in case you need to go around the car in front of you. Likewise, in life you estimate extra time for yourself, for project completion, for down time. Give yourself space in the social calendar, which is only for you.
3. Go around slow people
When driving in the slow lane, following slow cars, getting nowhere fast, you have only yourself to blame. Get one lane over and get a move on. If you are comfortable in life, know where you are going, sometimes, you have to leave the slow folks behind. It doesn’t mean good-bye forever, just right now, while you have steam, a great idea, and want to get it done.
4. Choose your exits wisely
Have you ever seen a driver back up from an off ramp, back onto a highway? Not a good idea right. This kind of driving causes accidents. Once you are on the off ramp, or onramp, you are swept up with the flow of traffic. Similarly, choosing a path in life on whim, without a premeditated direction can cause quite the commotion. Once you commit to a traveling job, a trade or vocation, post secondary school, or parenting, it’s not that easy to just drop everything and ‘change’ your mind the next day. Take time to plan out your route. Take time regularly to figure out which ‘exits’ suit you the best in life.
5. Express lanes are not for sissies
I love that express lane on a long drive. Cruising along with a great tune is really quite enjoyable. Until you get that misplaced driver who was somehow pushed out to the far left and now doesn’t know how to get back to the right hand lane safely. You know who you are. Sometimes we think we are ready to march full steam ahead and as we do, we realize cruising at a higher speed in life brings a lot more responsibility. Hitting the breaks in the midst of this accelerated commitment is not a good idea. If you want to excel and get things done faster, you must be prepared to take in a higher volume of information and weed out distractions. The rich, vibrant road in life is not for sissies.
6. Drive your size
We all have a comfort zone. This is more apparent in cars (and parking) than anything else. Imagine grandpa in the super-sized Cadillac, the suburban mom in an SUV, a teen in the family sedan with dozens of unseen blind spots. Bad drivers don’t ‘fit’ their car. It’s like biting off more than you can chew. They can’t see properly out the side, nor estimate correctly the length and width of their vehicles. When parking, these are the drivers that end up a foot away from the curb, or 5 inches away from you in a parking lot. In life, I find that saying yes to anything and everything that comes along is the same as driving an ill-fitting car. Most of us cannot take on everything. It’s too much. It’s too big. Be discerning and choosy. Try to pick the best fit for you, when making life decisions. It will make stopping and going in life much easier.
7. Decide your direction while parked
It seems obvious to plan out a journey on a map before we head out on the road, but we seldom do that right? We tend to plug in the address, or postal code at a red light, hit ‘route’ and off we go. Unsure if we are to turn right or left, we veering across a three-lane roadway. Changing direction due to confusion often creates panic, rise in blood pressure, heart palpitations. The mapped out journey is like a strategic life plan. When we envision our route and plan ahead in life, it is a lot more fun along the way, because we know where we are going. If you choose to not plan and decide to just ‘wing it’, be prepared for surprises and delays along the way.
8. Follow the rules as much as you can
When you at a stop sign, you stop, and proceed when the way is clear. Simple. Elegant. Efficient. Ever get a ticket for running a stop sign? A red light? Speeding? Doesn’t feel good does it. The rules are there to protect everyone. Bad drivers are like the ‘takers’ in life. They take and take until someone stops them. Avoid these like the plague. If you follow the rules or ‘social norms’ in society, you will get along well with most people, without drama, avoiding most hurts. If you break the rules, be prepared for a lonely road ahead.
9. Fear will kill you
This is an extreme statement yes, but it’s true. The driver in a panic, driving stick shift, stalled in the middle of an intersection may be darn close to a heart attack or even a collision. So is the grandma peering over the steering wheel, shaking in her pantyhose, as the trailers wiz by on the highway. Driving is risky. You must do it well and be confident in your abilities before you embark on the road. If you are afraid, you will make mistakes. Fear does that to people: it clouds judgment. To live a successful, full, happy life, we must focus on our skills, build our confidence and embark on the road of life pushing fear aside. Maybe start out on the small side roads of life, build your skill set before moving onto the highway.
10. Leave time for the unexpected
When we are in a rush, driving is the one place we can make up lost time right? Wrong. The minute we start driving with no time to spare, we rush through every orange light, we fight for parking spots, we forget to check blind spots, and at times we don’t care that someone is already in the lane next to us, we change lanes anyway! It is not the lack of time that creates this situation; it is the lack of planning properly with time. Time management is key here. Always give yourself a few minutes between journeys, book time between meetings, book an extra half hour or even a half a day, when shifting gears in projects. You will be more relaxed and your drive may even become enjoyable.
11. Enjoy the open road
Stuck in the highway parking lot everyday? Working up your tolerance for road rage? Every city seems to have a growing population of road rage drivers. You know them: aggressive, angry, impatient, honking on the horn, tailgating. They create anxiety in all of us. When a driver sits on my car’s rear end with only an inch to spare, this is cause for alarm. In cities, we may experience this daily. Such stress and anxiety can be reduced: go for a drive, out there — anywhere, in the middle of nowhere. Likewise, when life gets harried and full of too many deadlines, head for the open road. Take a trip to a cabin. Spend an evening talking with friends. Try a retreat or sign up for a new workshop. The shift in scenery revitalizes us and helps us cope better with the speed of everyday life, when we return.
12. Share the ride
Going green in the car means carpooling. We have HOV lanes in Ontario (high occupancy vehicle). If your car has 2 or more people, you are welcome to cruise at high speed, unencumbered by the traffic stopped beside you. If there is only a driver in the car, I say (ok yell): “get out of this lane”. Sharing a ride, like sharing an experience is a good deed. It saves resources, builds relationships, and literally brings us together. It’s awful to hog shared resources. Life lesson here: find a way to share. It forces you out of your shell and may reward you in ways you never expected. Share the ride in your life and you will smile everyday.
Driving is truly a privilege and when done respectfully, everyone can have a positive experience. It clearly demonstrates our character on the road. There are 100s more life lessons we can learn from bad drivers. What have you learned along the way?
Featured image courtesy of Mc-Q via Creative Commons.