One of the greatest lessons I have ever learned was from my father. It was about learning to drive when I was just 15. Although it took me another 15 years to realize it was also a metaphor for life. He used to say, “Don’t drive for other people, don’t hesitate and worry about other drivers, just drive for you or you will cause an accident.” Well let me tell you, I became a competent driver, but I crashed a whole lot in relationships. You see the deeper lesson was about taking responsibility for my own well being, my choices and my life. That might be easy if we didn’t waste so much time feeling responsible for everyone else.
Psychologist Cheri DeMoss states “one of the most difficult things for us to let go of is the belief and expectation that others should change for us. We learn this belief from the adults who raised us. In fact, the adult default is to believe that children shouldn’t make adults emotionally uncomfortable. We give them the messages that they should take care of us. For example, they should be quiet if we’re uncomfortable with the amount of noise they’re making. So the first thing we do in our adult relationships is try to make the other person change to make us emotionally safe and comfortable. If our partner wears an outfit that we don’t like, we tell them to change clothes rather than for us to work through our own feelings of being embarrassed. We don’t even realize that the feelings are ours – we’re actually convinced that the other person is creating the feelings we are having.”
I’m reminded of an old joke from comedian George Carlin. He said “Have you ever noticed that anyone driving slower than you is an idiot and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?” It’s a great observation. We could spend all day yelling at other drivers for making us annoyed or anxious and hope they’ll change. How crazy is that? Yet how often do we do it in our personal lives? We don’t even realize that when we ask others to change for us, we are giving them power over us. It’s a lot like blaming or complaining.
Author Gary Zukav states “complaining is exactly the dynamic of wanting someone to be responsible for what you experience and to fix things for you.”
When we take complete responsibility for our emotional needs, choices, and the direction of our life, we own our power. And when we realize how truly powerful we are, we are more deliberate about our choices and creating the life we want.
So remember, own your power by taking accountability; drive only for you, and drive your own life!