I thought of myself as a respectful and careful driver until I drove my girlfriend to Newport, RI one Sunday afternoon. It was the middle of summer. We had planned a romantic stroll along the beach and a nice lunch at my favorite cafe. Because I've been driving the same route to work for many years my automatic drive-like-crazy-to-get-to-work mode switched on. My girlfriend pointed out how aggressive my driving was–merging in and out of lanes to avoid waiting on traffic signals. I endangered the two of us and everyone else on the road all to get to our relaxing destination a few minutes earlier.
My aggressive driving habits improved over the years. Yet when I moved to the Bay Area I realized that I was still one of the jerks on the road. It took almost a year, but I finally left my East Coast driving habits behind. No longer will you see me react to traffic and bad drivers the "Office Space" way.
Let's continue on with Dr. David Paul's Caring lessons that challenge us to be VALUE-centered thinkers instead of REACTIVE, PREJUDICED, or BIASED actors. CHALLENGE NUMBER ONE is the DRIVING CHALLENGE. In this challenge, you CHALLENGE your own way of thinking to improve. In fact, your only real reaction is “needs improvement,” both to the other car/driver and to yourself.
Take a notebook with you next time you are in the car. When somebody cuts you off, note your reaction to the situation. Was it calm, reasoned, appropriate? Or did it include gesturing, hand signaling, and even inappropriate speech?
My friend, Tom is a good driver. He won the SCCA rally in a 427 Corvette back in 1967. Great guy, and when we go to the track, miss a shift, drive past the apex, or turn in too soon, our only comment is, “Hey, guy, needs improvement.” No blame, no fuss. Our day goes great from then on. No ‘lasting effects.’
The other day I got cut off on the freeway when a pickup truck exited from the fast lane (4 lanes over) at a high speed, right in front of me, bumping across the median between the exit ramp and the freeway. Just as I was ready to issue the standard barrage of blame and name, I thought, "What if that was my friend, Tom?” I chuckled and said to myself, “Needs improvement!” The Amazing thing about it was my day actually GOT BETTER. Even though the facts of the situation (near death experience, holocaust on the highway, drama driving, etc) did not change, the situation IN MY BRAIN completely changed my acceptance of and reaction to the incident.
My challenge to my classes now is to observe their reaction during a condition of getting cut off. Pretend that’s your best friend (you just haven’ t met them yet) and tell yourself and the other people in the car, “Needs improvement.” THIS IS ESPECIALLY TRUE AND NECESSARY WHEN YOU HAVE CHILDREN IN THE CAR.
For obvious reasons, children learn from the actions of others in an almost scary rapid way. They will learn your bad responses and repeat them. It is almost a form of child abuse to allow the “WRONG REACTION” to take place in front of children.
You can record your observations of how you felt, what you said, and how your day went. Chances are, you will “Need improvement” during the next couple of weeks as you begin training your brain to believe and promote the actions and thoughts that represent your REAL values—the ones you WANT your children to observe in you. As an ADVANCED TACTIC, you can also begin to believe that your real role in any driving situation is to “Protect the Safety of all your brothers and sisters on the highway, making sure they are protected by whatever means you have available. What makes you think you even HAVE a right of way? Some know this instinctively, but most of us don’t. So, this is the first challenge in looking inside your thought (actually there is NO THINKING going on in the reactive mode) process and seeking to upgrade it to data- and value-centric thinking in real time.
Good luck, and be sure to make notes in a safe place, off the freeway! But, make sure you keep a little notebook of these challenges. There will be some more, interesting challenges in the weeks to come.
Stay tuned for the next 7 weeks as we take these challenges. Share your experiences with this kind blogger and keep a notebook so your children can see how important you think THEY ARE as you become a values-centered man or woman.
From a student:
“After giving it some thought, I began to realize that the driving challenge is applicable in a large variety of situations which we are part of in our daily lives. The wisdom that you have the ability to see things in the light you wish to is a positively reinforcing thought reminding us that we have the power to better ourselves simply by taking the time to take our thoughts deeper into the realm of selflessness.
In the end, this more empathetic mindset alleviated much of the stress associated with the situation and my day definitely benefited from it.”
The above excerpt is borrowed from the upcoming book by Dr. David Paul and Val Dobrushkin: "Tapping in to the Future Want: How Caring for Your Customers, Employees, and Other Living Things Is a Strategic Imperative."