Have you ever been driving on a highway, 70 miles an hour, minding your business (windows and sunroof open, stereo at max scream-singing I’M WALKING ON SUNSHIIIIINE, WHOOOAAAAA!! Just me?), and all of a sudden, another car zooms so close behind you, you’re sure they’re going to run into you, but they zoomily zoom around in tight formation right back in front of your bumper by what seems like six inches, deftly threading the tiny spaces between you and every other car flying down the freeway?
Every time that happens to me, I have a “holy shit!” moment.
I mean, how do they do that? These giant metal cages are safe and all, but have you ever seen one crunched up after a bad accident? They’re not foolproof, and I worry that that guy (because it is always a guy) is a fool.
This happened to me the other day, and it got me thinking. This is all about tolerance, right? Tolerance for risk. And, it’s a little about learned habits and comfort level. It’s also about knowing your environment and your machine really, really well. In life and choices – that means yourself. That’s how they do it.
I’m the woman who checks her blind spot four different times before changing lanes, along with every mirror twice, and a double-take at my little orange safety indicator thingy. It’s not actually that I have a low tolerance for risk. I’d call that medium for me. It’s more that I learned to drive in a very structured environment, and those learned habits have stuck with me for (holy crap!) twenty years. Also, I know the environment, which means that most people aren’t paying attention while driving, so I’m going to make up the difference for myself. I’m a defensive driver, but I’m not aggressive.
When I think about how that translates to the choices I make in life, I can see parallels. I always ask for recommendations for things I want to buy or do, then research the hell out of that. Do informational interviews. Try the introductory things before I buy the whole shebang. I’ll invest in high-ticket items, but only when I’m sure they’re worth it and going to do what I need them to do, ie: get me where I need to go in one piece. Again, I know the environment, so I do my best to parse out the predatory marketing people think you’re not paying attention to. I’m a conscious consumer.
Same applies for me in work and relationships – I do plenty of checking and re-checking. Although, each of those are areas where I’m comfortable taking more risks. I’ve got more tolerance for cutting things closer there. I know myself reeeeeally well.
How about you? When you visualize that speeding racecar zooming around your trusty Subaru Outback or Honda Civic, what’s your reaction?
When you see that person in your life making a major life change, what’s your reaction?
Or rather, what’s your reflection? Because your reaction is probably telling you a lot more about yourself than you might realize.
I think the majority of us out there are more on the risk-averse side of things by the time we get to our thirties and forties. So when we see someone rush around like they don’t have a care in the world, we notice. When we see someone out there going after their dreams, taking financial risks, accepting new jobs, uprooting their families to live where they’ve always wanted to, we notice. Too often, though, we translate that right into that person being reckless, no regard for themselves or anyone else. And we usually feel it as not having the moxie to do things like that for ourselves – even if we want to, badly.
I also think we can use this feeling. Again, I think we can self-reflect: What’s your procedure for changing lanes? What’s your MO for making changes in life?
Do you know yourself well enough to increase your tolerance for risk even a little bit?
I check my blind spots repeatedly, yes. But here’s the thing – every so often, I don’t. I check a mirror, make sure the little yellow light on it isn’t blinking, and I go. Sometimes, you have to go. And guess what happens? I merge smoothly into traffic. No one yells at me, I don’t crash. I have enough information to get where I need to go. I covered my risk factors plenty well enough to make a move.
And that’s what it’s really about – knowing your risk factors. Your personal risk factors, abilities, environment. And again, making sure you know your car really, really well. Where’s the front end? Where’s the back end? Are you higher up so you have a little better perspective of the road? And you have to know the road conditions too, absolutely. But once you know, and you trust, you can make decisions, more informed decisions, quicker decisions, and decisions that are still sufficiently safe and will get you to your destination. You don’t have to re-learn to drive every single time you get in the car, you know?
Of course, it’s true it’s not always a great move. Sometimes the car stutters and that little engine doesn’t have enough get-up-and-go. Sometimes, for a brief second, I inconvenience another driver. Sometimes, I have to slam on my brakes. Once in a great, great while (literally once), I back into a mailbox. But the vast majority of the time, the car, and me inside it, rolls along unharmed, usually better for it, if maybe a little sweaty from that brief burst of adrenaline.
When you think about your driving habits, you can probably recall that when you make a mistake, you generally brush it off pretty quickly and keep driving. (Woops! Sorryyyy!! *waves*) Same for others – you might yell, flip the bird, honk, shake your head, whatever – but you also probably brush it off pretty quickly. You certainly don’t take it as a personal affront.
Why is it that we dwell and ruminate so much more on the other decisions we make in our lives every day, even when they’re pretty low-risk?
And I know what you might say – it’s just driving! This is my life we’re talking about! My livelihood! My family! I have so much to lose! But if you really look at it, driving is super dangerous (the data says you’ve got anywhere from a 1 in 103 to 1 in 77 chance of dying in a car crash in your lifetime), and we go about it practically mindlessly throughout the day, half-distracted most of the time. I daresay it should be on equal footing with those big life decisions, so indulge me for a second and think about it similarly just for now.
Out of the probable millions of miles you’ve driven in your life, how many of them have resulted in an accident of some sort? A minor fender bender? A major crash with injuries? Probably a low number of miles, yes?
Now, out of the probable millions of minutes you’ve lived in your life, how many of those minutes have resulted in a crisis of some sort? An uncomfortable situation? A “bad” result? A major catastrophe that changed your life? Also, likely a low number of minutes.
You might be asking yourself whether I’m trying to say that driving is safe or dangerous. Or whether life is safe or dangerous. I’m saying both…and neither. It’s up to you to decide your tolerance, but I’m definitely saying that we are all, indeed, going to die of something, and if my risk of dying from heart disease, poison, or firearms are greater than or equal to those of driving, hell, I’m going to start a new business, take a new job, elope, move, speak up for myself and what I believe in, travel, spend that money, and live my life.
I’ve driven around a banged-up car before, and I’ll make it through life a little banged up too.
I’m not saying you should start going around driving on your neighborhood streets like a formula racer. I’m not saying you should start living life by the seat of your pants, making rash decisions all over the place either. We can’t, and shouldn’t, all be the zoom-zoom guy, all the time. What I am saying is that you probably don’t have to drive like your great grandpa. (And actually, he’s probably a bigger danger to himself and everyone else on the road anyway.) And you don’t have to wait for every single thing to be perfect before you make move in your life.
You’ve checked your blind spots enough times. You know your car. You know the road. You’ve got safety systems in place. And even if you don’t? You’re smart. You’ve got experience. You can make an educated decision about how to proceed, and quicker than you think, no matter what your current tolerance is. You can also recover, should you take a wrong turn.
Listen, there was a time when we all terrified of that two-ton box of metal hurling down the road with our tiny bodies at the wheel. It felt fast, it felt heavy, we didn’t know our machine well. But it didn’t take long for our tolerance to change, our habits to get a little better and more ingrained, our abilities to make decisions and react on the fly to get stronger. It didn’t take long before we knew our machine intimately. It felt lighter, easier, and we decided this was safe enough, that we could take the risk to get the reward. You knew you wanted to be able to drive on your own, and you did.
So, what is it that you know you want to do in your life? The thing you can’t stop thinking about? The risk that you know is worth the reward? It might feel fast and heavy now, and maybe you’re checking those blind spots over and over again. But I guarantee it can feel lighter and easier too. You know yourself well enough, or you’re on your way to learning. Don’t let your old, bad, learned habits hold you back. The road might not be without its challenging turns and skids, you might get a few fuck-yous along the way, but your smile-and-wave tolerance is higher than you think, my friend.
Get in the driver’s seat and go.
Are you ready to go? Schedule a call with me below and let’s blow this popsicle stand.