The truck was fully loaded and we were ready to hit the road. Cara was at work and I had arranged time off to take the two wee ones on a short caravan holiday in the country.
We were extra excited about the trip because Granny and Grandad were meeting us there.
Just as I was getting ready to hit the road, in a split second I played out this horrendous accident in my mind where I crashed the truck and killed my kids. It came out of nowhere and knocked the wind out of me.
If you’re a parent you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. It seems that you can’t experience joy and excitement without a dash of fear and despair.
Twenty years of driving, and I’ve never been in a car accident in my whole life. The trip itself would be less than an hour, but now even getting behind the wheel of the truck felt intimidating. But I’m the driver. The one single person responsible for transporting my kids safely to our holiday destination.
In the hallway, time stood still while I played out a continuous loop of every possible tragic accident that could happen on our way to creating our new memories.
Of course, we got there and back safely, had lots of fun and the kids were spoiled by their grandparents.
I learned a little trick, you see. A hack. A simple method that helps me to regain focus and control when I’m stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed.List #3: What do I have complete control over? / What do I have incomplete control over?
I sneaked into my study to steal a few seconds and gather my thoughts. This is what I wrote…
What do I have complete control over?
- When I set off and how much time I give myself
- What route I take and having a planned route
- What speed I drive at
- How I react to other drivers on the road
- How I react to the kids and their behaviour
- When/if we take a break
- My general attitude – patient, happy, kind, calm
What do I have incomplete control over?
- The speed of other drivers
- The behaviour of other drivers on the road
- How other drivers react to me on the road
- How my kids behave in the back
- The weather
- The traffic – delays and queues
When we finally set off on our trip, I knew that if we did get into an accident that I was doing everything within my complete control to prevent it.
I also learned that all the reasons that have led to a real dislike of driving – upset, anger, road rage – originate from all the things I can’t control. Isn’t that interesting?
By shifting the focus of my energy and attention to what was within my complete control I was able to reclaim my confidence, channel my personal agency and settle my negative thoughts.
Although I can’t control other road users, it was clear to me how my actions and behaviour can affect other people. In this case, by having the right attitude and driving mindfully I can influence the environment of the other drivers around me.
Over to you…
When your thoughts are speeding away from you and you feel like you’re losing your grip on reality, take a moment to reset and ask yourself “what do I have complete control over?“
Like me, you’ll probably find that the reason anxiety and stress rises up in you is because you are letting the things you can’t control, control you.
Both in your personal life and your work, you can use these questions to get clear and focus your energy and attention on to what you can actually do something about.