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.