Learning To Drive (Your Life!)

Do you remember when you first learned to drive a car? Were you afraid of making a mistake? Turning without hitting anything? And God forbid, managing a stick shift? No matter what auto you started with, there was a learning curve that demanded persistence, courage, and experimentation. Did you eventually discover the joy of driving? Did you enjoy the windows down, the wind in your hair, the roar (or meow) of an engine, and the sense of freedom that forward motion delivers. A similar process exists in discovering how to drive your own life. And I’ve got a great example to prove it.

Meet my client and friend, Sharon. Sharon lives in Missouri. After we met at a webinar, she reached out to me and asked if I would help her build a success plan. Would I? Is the Pope Catholic? I love it when a motivated individual wants to learn why they are a rock star, is willing to overcome their fears, and insert energy in the success process. Sharon embraced the journey – I didn’t have to sell her on the value of it. Neither of us knew what the destination would be, but we agreed that the only way to figure it out was to start down the path.

May I pause here for a moment and make a point? The key to success is simple (but not easy); it is committing to the exploration of a new path, unique to you, with the belief that treasures unknown await.

Commitment is essential and flows both ways. You commit to the pursuit of unknown path, and I commit to supporting you on the journey. My commitment is only effective when it is coupled with your commitment, just as hiring a driving instructor is useful only if the driver is willing to drive.

When I first spoke to Sharon this spring, she was in the middle of a challenging time in her life. Her marriage was ending, her youngest daughter was getting settled, she was finishing her Master’s thesis, and she felt stuck in her position at work. Sharon knew she needed to explore a better future, and the idea of building upon her strengths appealed to her.

In our first meeting, we covered a lot of ground:

  • We talked about her previous successes what she was doing when she was most fulfilled.
  • We talked about her strengths, and agreed that when they owned her, rather than her owning her strengths, it had a negative impact on the situation.
  • We talked about what the “best future” would look like.
  • We explored her professional network – who could help her make her dreams come true?
  • We talked about the challenge of making a big change in one’s life.
  • Finally, we covered next steps, including a monitoring period that focused on observing when she did well, and when she struggled.

I was impressed with Sharon’s energy and with her ability to identify and face her fears. This is what courage is, isn’t it? It isn’t denying fear; it is carrying on in the face of fear. It’s trying again when the blasted car is bucking like a bronco as you struggle with the clutch. It’s laughing in the face of a good tumble while in front of an audience, and trying again.

Sharon emailed me when she had tried something new. She discovered that by consciously curbing one of her strengths she had achieved a better outcome. She’d also noticed how her strengths were supporting her efforts to interview for a new role. Sharon was learning how to drive (her life) all over again. She worked really hard at it. Before long, she was cruising at high speed, just like the car in the photo above.

Last week, Sharon reached out to me to schedule another session, and teased me that she had “good news.” We met a few days ago, and got right to the point.  Sharon had lobbied for and landed a new position – her dream job – helping build a stronger education system in Missouri. But the best part – the part we celebrated the longest and loudest?

The man who hired her said, “We’re not hiring you for your Masters in public policy or 19 years of school board experience. We are hiring you for whatever it is that makes Sharon, Sharon.” He went on to describe behaviors that sounded a lot like Woo and Connectedness, both of which she has. He hired Sharon for being able to communicate and demonstrate her Secret Sauce (click here to read that blog)

Sharon entered the interviewing process determined to be completely transparent. She talked about her strengths, and when pressed on some difficult topics, she replied with honesty and grace. Sharon didn’t pretend to be someone she wasn’t, or try to throw out the “right answer”.

Articulating your strengths, weaknesses, skills and experiences with authenticity and self-awareness is both compelling and extremely attractive to employers. Quite simply, Sharon’s preparation and delivery gave them confidence in their choice and reduced their risk of hiring her. Sharon was the right person for the role – she has the talent to do a great job in that position. Talent is something you can’t teach.

Once we completed a thorough debrief and celebrated her achievement and courage – possible only because she was willing to do the heavy lifting associated with real change – we moved on to deepening the understanding of her strengths. It was a lot of fun for us both.

Sharon is an example of embracing what makes her unique, harnessing it to her passions and dreams, and then setting out to find the place where she is valued for it.

What can we learn from Sharon’s journey? One of the hard things about becoming an adult is that we forfeit the joy of exploration for the belief that we must know exactly who we are, why we are here, and what we should be doing. The journey is cloaked in the disguise of a destination. We fear looking awkward, silly, uncertain, and making a mistake. All of those emotions (emotions are not facts, and no one ever died from looking silly) prevent us from trying something new – like learning how to leverage our strengths, build a success plan, and trust that the universe will support us as we take our first steps (or baby steps!) on the path.

I felt the joy and commitment in Sharon’s voice as we discussed our own next steps. It’s not about a destination; it’s about crafting, with intent and purpose, a really cool journey where she feels successful, strong, and fulfilled. Sharon is driving her life and loving it.

Call to Action: Are you driving your life? If not, can you identify the obstacles and fears that are holding you back? Can you stare them down and embark on your own journey? Can you take even a small step forward this weekend?

9 thoughts on “Learning To Drive (Your Life!)

  1. Maureen,
    Love the driving analogy. Of course driving is now automatic, reflexive, second nature. And, I can remember at 15 how scary and challenging it was. I have a vivid memory of my Dad inviting me to relax and breathe as I cruised down I-95 early on a Saturday morning road trip (don’t worry – I had some training under my belt by then). Relax? Really? I’m stiff with fear as these trucks barrel past me, Dad! (Hmmm…as I reflect on this week, I think there were a few semi tractor trailors coming up along side me!)
    Love these quotes: “Neither of us knew what the destination would be, but we agreed that the only way to figure it out was to start down the path.” and “The key to success is simple (but not easy); it is committing to the exploration of a new path, unique to you, with the belief that treasures unknown await.” I’m resonating with the idea that I might now see the destination right now, but I can do my best to map out some possible paths, and then get in the darn car and drive!
    You note how “Articulating your strengths, weaknesses, skills and experiences with authenticity and self-awareness is both compelling and extremely attractive to employers.” It’s compelling and inherently delicious to me for simple intrinsic reasons, too. I love the process of self-discovery and gaining clarity about who I am, what makes me unique, where I add value.
    Boy, you are full of totally awesome quotes this week – love this: “One of the hard things about becoming an adult is that we forfeit the joy of exploration for the belief that we must know exactly who we are, why we are here, and what we should be doing.” I’m all in – gonna grab the joy of exploration this week, my friend. And this: “It’s not about a destination; it’s about crafting, with intent and purpose, a really cool journey…” Feeling crafty. Gonna lean in to the invitations showing up to look at what makes me feel successful, strong, and fulfilled.
    Thanks for an awesome post. Oh, my gosh, not only is Michigan on the way to great things, sounds like Missouri is, too. Go Maureen and Sharon!

    • Hi Vicki! Exactly! Remember how hard it was to drive at first? (I remember some of those trucks too, on I-75! Did you guys have a CB?? ;-) But I digress, as usual. I appreciate you highlighting some of the quotes you found most helpful – I’m going to start an outline for a new project today – so you have given ME courage and permission to go for it and Drive My Own Life! :-) I have my own fears and “what if’s” that pop up as part of the exploration. I will try to look at them, acknowledge them, and give them up to the universe in search of destinations and treasures unknown!

      I’m dying to know what you’ll be exploring for yourself – do share once you’ve played with that a bit. Thanks again for sharing your insight with us… Sharon is a rock star, and you are too!

  2. Love the driving analogy, since I’ve been teaching my daughter to drive my stick shift. What struck me about your post is that commitment is so important. Sitting in the passenger seat while my daughter made the commitment to figure out the extra pedal, which gear to use when, trying to do something different — it’s hard to coach someone through those first uncomfortable efforts until she gets to unconscious competence. I know she will keep at it, learn to drive the car and then use that confidence and commitment to tackle other challenges in life!

    • Hi Barbara! Wow, Allison is learning to drive a stick! How cool! And indeed, commitment is really, really important. Hard to do in today’s bevy of distractions associated with technology, work, and a 24/7 news onslaught, but it’s perhaps the most important part of the equation.

      One must experience moving from total discomfort to, as you so eloquently stated, unconscious competence. Until that happens, one may not believe it is possible. And we’ve lost most of those brain cells from when we did it as a child. :-)

      Constant judgement only makes progress impossible. And yes, once a fear is overcome, it helps the next time we need courage and commitment. Thanks for coming out to play!

  3. The journey is cloaked in the disguise of a destination – Do you read my mind Maureen? I love road trips and I love driving for the only reason that I enjoy the drive more than reaching the destination. I was talking to a friend last night about the same tangent of human life and how blurred our lives have become. This eventually impacts our work and relations too. There is a race in our minds to be ‘there’ and we do anything to be ‘there’ and we forget everything on the way. Thank you for sharing this with us and helping us slow down to enjoy life.

    • Hi Khalid! I was subliminally reading your mind, apparently! :-) I love road trips, too, and didn’t know that about you, my friend! Look forward to a conversation about that! But you see, your comments only prove the point I made about you in my last post – you are exploring with INTENT, which means you see, realize, feel, and process “things” differently, more rapidly, and of course, you SHARE them (because you are a Communication rock star!)

      Are we there yet? ;-) No we are not, and we will never be, which is the best part of all!

  4. Hi Maureen
    What an awesome post! I love how you made the parallell with driving – it brings it to such a visceral level. And I associate driving with freedom, and so the analogy works on a whole separate level – as living authentically is freedom also. It’s a long and circuitous route but well worth the detour. I really appreciate Sharon’s courage and her story – she’s an inspiring woman, as are you for knowing how to help usher her along the path. And I just love: “… The journey is cloaked in the disguise of a destination. We fear looking awkward, silly, uncertain, and making a mistake. All of those emotions (emotions are not facts, and no one ever died from looking silly) prevent us from trying something new…”

    GREAT post..thank you!

    • Hi Bonnie! You know what? I can totally see you associating driving with freedom – I love the connection, thank you for making it. Driving = living authentically because we are then in charge of where we go, how we do it, and our choices reflect our authenticity, don’t you think? Glad you enjoyed Sharon’s story – I told her she was one in a million (and so are well all, it just helps to know why!) Thanks for commenting – it’s through this dialogue that the learning is most fulfilling for me! Onward!

      • Onward! For sure – I love the overlaps here and that the conversation, dialogue has gone in both directions and back around again! It is how we take steps in the right direction. Until next time!

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