The car of your life – are you in the driving seat?
Imagine the journey of your life as a 2-seater sports car, like this Chevrolet Corvette at the Cayman Motor Museum.
You’re speeding down the road. Everything’s flashing by. Your road may be straight or winding, fast or lazy. The scenery may be beautiful, ugly, desolate, or flashing by too fast to take in. You may have music playing—a favourite album, playlist, or random radio selections.
You may have a passenger—you are in the driving seat, right?
Most of us are, to some extent at least, in the passenger seats of our own lives.
To the extent that your life is out of your control, you’re in the passenger seat.
To the extent that you’ve got some—but not complete—control over the various aspects of your life, you’re impaled on the gear lever. (Yes, the car of your life is manual. No one can drive it for you.)
To the extent that your life satisfies you, you’re in the driving seat.
How do we get out of the passenger seat, or off that pesky gear lever?
The way to move into the driving seat is via responsibility.
Responsibility is one of those good news-bad news things.
The good news is that when you’re in the driving seat of your own life you get to turn the steering wheel, press the throttle and brakes, beep the horn, flick the lights on and off, and pull handbrake slides. You are responsible for all these choices.
The bad news is that, with the car of your life, only you are responsible. No one else. If you crash it, you must live with the consequences. There is no insurance policy.
And that’s scary.
We like to think that we are responsible already. We tend to be physically and responsible—take charge of pulling and pushing all the levers, pedals, and switches. Where we fall down is in a lack of emotional responsibility.
Notice how quick drivers are to blame others for incidents on the road. We tend to be blind to our own bad driving habits. We’re actually blind to all the ways we don’t take full responsibility, where we don’t fully show up.
So, let’s do a showing up exercise.
Coaching questions on the car of your life
Open your journal (you do have a journal, riiight?) and start by figuring out where you are:
- What type of car is the car of your life?
- How comfortable is your seating position?
- Is the journey fast or slow, rough or smooth, straight or winding?
- Is the scenery dull or interesting?
- What do you notice/catches your interest as you drive?
- What map or road markings, if any, are you following?
The questions may seem trivial or banal. The point is to access our stream of consciousness. You’ll know it when you hit it—words will flow faster than you can write or type. At some point you’ll hit a nugget of valuable information. Again, you’ll know it when it happens.
When I did this exercise, I discovered it was about the road markings—that’s when I added them as the last question.
What kept me from the driver’s seat was a fear of letting go of normal—the normalised patriarchal worldview. A world with no normal seems like a very desirable place, but it’s a world without a compass, without Google Maps. I let the car drive itself as its autopilot will follow the road markings and I can say “yes, this is what I choose” but really, I’m choosing safety. The safety of staying small and doing what everyone else is doing.
To truly step into the driving seat of the car of our lives we must accept responsibility not just for driving the car but for what road markings we do or don’t follow. Only then can we leave our own traces on the map.
Photo: Chevrolet Corvette @ Cayman Motor Museum by Michael H Hallett