Saturday, 8 November 2008

Look for space

This is a personal message.

I rant so often on here, I thought I better write something positive for once. (Don't worry, normal service will be resumed shortly!)

You can take this however you like, whether driving, testing, teaching or just as a motto to live life by.

Look for Space.

What do I mean by this?

Well we spend too much time looking for trouble, as drivers spotting hazards, as assessors and examiners and trainers looking for faults, as human beings looking for trouble. It's how we've evolved.

The only problem with this is that by looking for trouble we so often find it.

There is a common effect which any driving instructor will tell you about - our customers are trained (from the HPT onwards) to look for potential hazards, that we start to concentrate on them. Learners will naturally look at the problem and as the hands follow the eyes they will steer towards it. We often do the same in life - we look for problems and by looking for them we find them and hit them head on.

Many trainers are aware of the power of a positive instruction (as opposed to the classic "don't think of pink elephants" problem), where you encourage a positive response, which for some reason gets a much more immediate and positive reaction. If you say "don't think of pink elephants" you think of them, then need a moment to clear your head, or often, you can't get the damn things out at all.

If you want someone not to think about pink elephants, tell them "think about the full moon on a clear bright cold night". The effect is immediate, needing no concious thought to change what we are doing.

The human brain has evolved to think in terms of positives. This means that a negative suggestion will take concious effort to apply. "Don't annoy uncle Doreen this Christmas", will have a completely different response initially to "Be nice to uncle Doreen" (until uncle Doreen sits in your favourite chair and looks like he/she is expecting to have everything done for him/her for the entire festive season at least).

So yes, we should be aware of the potential problems, but instead of thinking "don't hit the parked car", start looking for space. If you can't find it, or it is restricted - slow down until you can find it.

Back to the personal note - start thinking in terms of what you SHOULD do, CAN do and COULD do. If you are thinking of what you don't want to do - do what the shrinks would term "re-framing" - start to think of that thing in terms that positively steer you into a good place.

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