Note on THE SUMMER REFLECTION SERIES: From the very beginning, the sole purpose of THE PORCH has been to create a space to ponder the subtle issues of business and life. In the almost 250 issues, no two issues have been alike. The SUMMER REFLECTION SERIES changes that as we circle-back to three of the most popular articles. As one of my favorite spiritual teachers, Jim Finley, often says: Repetition is not redundancy. I hope you find this to especially be true, through these summer months, as I pull from the archives AND fine-tune the original expression. No doubt, you will be seeing each of these summer issues from a different moment in life … which always gives us the opportunity to see it in a new way. Today, I double-dipped into the March 2007 and September 2018 archives. The related content of these two articles garnered more response and comments (most by private by email) than any in the history of The Porch! It was confirmation that driving habits strike a very personal chord! It seemed like a timely topic in the midst of the summer driving season. So pull up a chair and let’s dive-in …
I’m sure a case could be made that, through more intentional observation, every activity – interaction, conversation, and decision – is an opportunity for greater awareness. Yet, some activities are surely more telling than others. Driving habits is indeed a telling activity.
Last Thursday, I drove into Chicago to meet two friends for lunch. There wasn’t anything unusual about the drive except the extended search for parking and an increased sense of observation on a perfectly beautiful eve of autumn. As I weaved through the Fulton Market area there was plenty to notice. For some reason, I took particular notice of the variety of driver habits weaving through the tight streets and a plethora of construction obstacles.
On my return trip to the burbs, I resumed my observation of driver habits. No judgement, only observation – for the most part! Moving back through the tight city streets, open interstate, tollways, mid-afternoon “rush hour” bumper-to-bumper back-ups and finally amongst the busy suburban avenues – provided a variety of context to observe plenty of driving habits. Somewhere between the bumpers, my mechanical observations leaped to an uncertain awareness:
How one drives may say a whole lot about who they really are.
I’m sure we have all known that calm cool collected individual who turns into a completely different person behind the wheel of a car. Some of us have seen them in the mirror.
Driving includes a lot of choices, sometimes quick decisions, a variety of distractions and a mixture of give-and-take. It also provides fertile ground to reveal selflessness or self-interest.
The roads create common ground. The “rules of the road” don’t change based on the value of your vehicle, where you are driving to or from, the distance of your trip or circumstances of your day. The title of your position, oor the circumstances of your family, don’t authorize your own set of rules. Regardless of the terrain on which you drive, it levels the playing field.
And this playing field is your daily opportunity for awareness.
In a March 2007 Porch article titled, Taking It to the Limit, I shared how my brother, Steve, first pointed-out to me the psychological opportunity that driving the speed limit provides each of us. Subsequent conversations, with numerous psychologists, have confirmed what he shared with me: It is a constant limit you impose, regardless of what everyone else is doing. If your immediate reaction to this “speed limit” virtue is arguing the case for going-with-the-flow, you will certainly find grounds for making a point. You may also find a trap for building convenient excuses.
Yet, driving the speed limit is just one telling habit of driving. Merging is another – both those allowing others to appropriately merge as well as those passing a long line of cars, waiting to exit, only to force their own merge near the front of that line. Tailgating must certainly be a sign of aggression or a misconception of perceived progress. Signals are thoughtful. Some hand signals are not. Repeatedly and aggressively changing lanes in bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic is your dead give-away. I’m certain, from experience, you could add a number of other telling habits to this list – through both your own observations – and confessions!
Some driving habits are critical for safety. For instance, stopping for red lights and stop signs is a good place to start. Other habits are more reflective of deeper character or just common consideration of others. Kirstin, my daughter-in-law, wisely observes that some drivers seem to think their time is more valuable than everyone else’s time! Sometimes the truth beneath our actions aren’t intentional, yet no less truthful. As guilty parties, we sometimes don’t bother to connect the dots. If you are feeling a little defensive at this point … well, I know that feeling!
Not only are there more cars on the road, but there are also more distractions within those cars: cell phones, navigation systems and entertainment to name a few. Concoct a blend of these distractions, some questionable driving habits and a self-examination and you might have trouble recognizing the character of your own self behind the wheel.
It has been said: Integrity is what you do when no one is watching … a lagging indicator of integrity, for sure. When it comes to driving, many seem to recast that quote: integrity is what you do when “no one you know” is watching! The fact is, when you are driving, everyone is watching! The driving habits of others may tell us more about them than they would like to admit.
An analysis of our own driving habits will do the same.
As you drive along the road, you will arrive at a whole new place if you allow yourself to be driven to awareness – possibly just a little closer to your core values. Those values make the perfect fuel for better driving!
What bad driving habit is your pet peeve? How could it teach us a valuable lesson on our own road of life?
As always, I would LOVE for you to share your own insights below.
This article caught my eye in that my friend Dan and I discuss driving often as he is suburban and I am city. Lots of good points here about how our personality and mental health and more are revealed in our style. Thanks John. Oh, and I am a speed limit or no more than 5 over driver. 🙂
I too “am a speed limit or no more than 5 over driver,” not because I’m a rule follower but rather I know that’s the point where law enforcement doesn’t care. On the Interstate, I sometimes rationalize that going 70 when traffic is going 85 is actually unsafe.
Oh, dear, this made me realize that I am pretty aggressive when I drive because I live in a city with LOTS of old people. 😉 I will re-evaluate and work on no judgment as I will be there someday, too.
Hello John and THANKS for the “summer rewinds”:-)
My driving pet peeve is how many drivers do not use their turning signals:-(
My “opinion” is that turn signals have two purposes.
First, to communicate that at this intersection, the driver “will be” turning in the direction of the turn signal.
Next, to communicate how a driver is going to maneuver through traffic, ex. changing lanes.
In other words, turn signals are, IMHO, primarily a communications mechanism!
When drivers neglect to use this mechanism, they fail to communicate and increase this risk of an accident or, at a minimum, frustrating fellow drivers.
Based on your article, it would be interesting to determine the correlation among drivers communications habits while driving and communications habits in general while not driving???
Thanks for your insights and perspectives!!!
I am reading am reading Andrew Robert’s’ biography on Winston Churchill,
“Churchill: Walking with Destiny”.
Here is a quote from page 79:
“Churchill habitually drove fast, routinely jumped traffic lights and occasionally went up on to the pavement when faced with traffic congestion. His impatience behind the wheel and ignoring of the rules of the road seem completely at one with his general attitude to life.”
I thought this was so in tune with your most recent Front Porch post.
Take care and give my best to your family.