It’s important to see driving as a skill, not just as a means of getting from A to B. When you’re driving safely, responsibly and with skill, then it’s an event in itself. To paraphrase the old saying: it’s about the journey, not just the destination.
Let’s say that you’re driving to the beach. It’s ten in the morning, the sun is shining, and the temperature is going to soar into the high twenties as the early afternoon approaches. As you’re driving along, what pictures do you have in your mind?
- The sun?
- The sea?
- The sand?
- Ice cream?
Your mind may be saying ‘I want to be there NOW!’ You may be thinking of the speed limits, red lights, other road users and potential hazards you’ll meet on the way – all of them obstacles to you getting to the beach. All that’s important to you is the destination.
I’ve heard this kind of attitude described as ‘end-gaining’: rather than thinking about the job in hand, you just think about the end result.
This is OK in some situations – in fact it’s probably advisable! For instance, this is how I approach my least favourite household chore – doing the dishes. ‘I don’t want to be doing this. I want to be finished and relaxing on the sofa!’ I think about what I can look forward to (my lovely, comfy sofa) whilst I’m doing this unpleasant task, because end-gaining here presents no danger.
But imagine how this lack of attention could affect your drive to the beach. It’s a completely different story; there could be serious consequences both for you and for other road users.
So, next time you have a journey ahead of you and you’re really looking forward to reaching your destination, try to think of the drive itself as part of the pleasure and the experience. What can you see as you’re driving and how can you approach each situation in the safest and most skilful way?
Break the drive down into chunks. A chunk could involve an area of between 10 and 100 metres ahead of you, depending on how far ahead you can see and what’s happening. Think clearly about what’s in your area and the best course of action for that situation. Give yourself plenty of time to think each situation through; give yourself enough time to act or react. Once that chunk of the journey has been dealt with, analyse the next chunk and take the safest course of action again, and so on, until you reach your destination.
Concentrating hard on the task of driving can often make the drive itself more interesting. You could even try pretending that you’re actually on your driving test (if that isn’t too nerve-wracking!). You’ll arrive at your destination safely and at roughly the same time. You’ll have plenty of time to relax at the beach, with the satisfaction of knowing that your clear thinking and safe, responsible driving got you there.
If you’re taking driving lessons, you may find it useful to talk your instructor through your thoughts and decisions as you drive. That way, you’ll develop the habit of being mindful during every drive you take once you’ve passed your test.