A few years ago, my husband and I were navigating a long distance relationship. While it was a tremendous learning experience on many grounds, one practical challenge I faced was the commute every other weekend. I had a lot of “free time” during the drive, in spite of long phone conversations (hands-free, of course), self-taught music lessons, and hilarious P.G. Wodehouse audiobooks. It gave time to do something we don’t usually allow ourselves in our hectic lives – think! In the midst of random musings about what happened the previous week, exciting plans for the weekend, and ideas to solve technical problems at work, were born these seven simple lessons I learnt at the wheel.
Lesson 1: All Roads Lead to Rome
There are many ways to get to the same goal. Some routes are faster, some are shorter, while others are expensive with tolls, and yet others are scenic. Even on the same highway, you could be on the slow lane, the fast lane, or the express one. However, irrespective of the choices you make, the only thing that really matters in the big pictures is that you arrived at your destination. Pick your path, stay in lane, enjoy your ride, and allow others to do the same.
Lesson 2: Steer Clear of Negative Influences
Pennsylvania DMV’s guidance for dealing with aggressive drivers is to “ignore them and move out of their way”. And there couldn’t be a better approach – the distraction is just not worth it! The same holds in life. When someone pulls down your energy or is overly negative, why engage with them? Avoid them and focus on your goal.
Lesson 3: Drive Past Regret
Not infrequently, I’d be faced with “Oops, I missed the exit” or “Ugh, bad choice. Too many trucks on this route”. In life, we often run into regret and we have two options – to be bogged down with it, or to skillfully learn from it and move past it. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says: “Events bring with them emotions and lessons. Wisdom is to keep the lessons and drop the emotions. Often we do the opposite – drop the lessons and keep the emotions forever!”
Lesson 4: Slow and Steady Wins the Race?
There is nothing more frustrating that being stuck on a single lane highway behind a car that goes a few miles/hr below the speed limit. But, here’s a crazy thought: What if there is a cop up ahead and this slow driver is inadvertently saving you a ticket? Is it possible that the challenging situation or the problem person who seems to be in the way, is actually helping you out in the big picture?
Lesson 5: One Mile at a Time
When you start driving, getting to your destination sometimes seems daunting. You may feel tired at the thought of it. However, when you aim for intermediate goals, it isn’t all that bad. You may feel tired now, but once you get started, you may feel differently. The only thing unchanging in life is that everything is constantly changing! So, why worry too much anything? Just keep moving and things will sort themselves out.
Lesson 6: Take Risks
If you had a choice between bumper-to-bumper traffic on the regular lanes and an empty heavy-occupancy lane, what would you choose? How about if you don’t see any cops around AND there’s a 90lb dog in your rear seat? Does that qualify as “heavy-occupancy”? As far as I am concerned, sure it does!
“A comfort zone is a beautiful place but nothing ever grows there”
Every once in a while, we need to get out of our heads and do something different. Sure, we need to be sensible about it, but growth in life is only possible when we take risks, follow our intuition, and get outside our comfort zone.
Lesson 7: “What about you?”
And in spite of all this, getting stuck in traffic cannot always be avoidable. But, how you handle the delay and the stress of being stuck in traffic is an indicator of how much you’ve grown. Sri Sri says “Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional”. It is natural for complaints and disappointment to come in life but the critical thing is how quickly we bounce up from them!
“Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional” – Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
A powerful way of shifting the mind out of the space of complaints and “Why me?” thoughts is to think “What about you?” We may be stuck in traffic that sets us back an hour but what if there’s someone stuck in an accident up ahead, for whom the event means a lot more than just an hour delay? Compassion has the ability to put a positive spin on almost any situation and usually brings along her sister, gratitude, who makes the road trip even more fun! When we live life with compassion for others and gratitude for what we have, life flows in the best direction spontaneously.