Friday, June 26, 2015

The Driver's Seat

Whether you're literally in a car or not, the expression implies control, doesn't it? When we say we are "in the driver's seat," it means that we are making the choices, in charge of the decisions, behind the "wheel" of life.

I was in the driver's seat yesterday. I drove a friend to and from somewhere where my driving made it easier for her. Yet, while I was behind the wheel, I can't say that I was in charge of anything. Could I have made route choices? I suppose, though mostly I was just following the directions on the GPS. Did I make speed choices? I guess, though mostly I was just following what the speed limit signs told me to do. Did I affect the event or the outcome? Not really. I was simply a part of the process--the one operating the vehicle, but really just a part.

So, what, then, does "being in the driver's seat" really mean? Perhaps it means being proactive in our job choices--except that no amount of networking and emailing and resume revision can guarantee our getting what we aim for. Maybe it means taking more responsibility and ownership of our work--except that so many factors besides our own "driving" affect our outcomes, it can be as if there are multiple drivers. Perhaps it means making everything in our day a conscious choice, except that there is rarely a day when we could possibly execute all the stops and turns to make that happen.

What I do know, both from the drive yesterday, and from life, is that being "in the driver's seat" means, above all, keeping our eyes and ears open. Perhaps we don't always choose our route, but we can choose not to be the sleeping passenger. We can't always control how quickly we reach our destination, but we can choose whether to pause for coffee or whether to switch lanes once in a while. The "driver's seat" may not be the place of ultimate control that we have come to imagine. But it can be the place of engagement that will keep us active participants in our life journeys.

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