Lengthy highway drives inevitably lead to random thoughts, self-questioning, problem solving, fantasizing and more. As you rack up the miles, the wheels of your mind turn. Feelings can sail along on cruise control or be as bumpy as the potholes in the road. Your spirits soar, gaining speed with each positive thought then sadness consumes you, stopping you short and leaving skid marks on your heart. It’s quite a drive, riding high one minute then suddenly hitting the brakes.
We focus on the good that’s in our life. We struggle with the sadness. We reason with our anger. We evaluate the crosses we bear.
And those crosses can be so many that it’s a wonder any of us can get anything done. The voices in our head go round and round like a carousel, then ping pong back and forth. The drive can pretty much be summed up in the conversations outlined below that we may have with ourselves.
What a lovely day. Look at the sun, the skyline. It’s so good to be out.
Did I lock the door? Do I have my keys? Did I turn the stove off?
Am I truly living my life or just existing? Am I content with my work or am I complacent?
God, I miss the jerk. No I don’t. It’s a fleeting feeling. What do I miss? It was an unhealthy relationship and I made the right decision.
Why this song? Really? Maybe it’s a sign. No it’s not. That’s just crazy. Why am I going down that road right now?
When will this pandemic end? Will people be able to rebuild their small businesses? What impact will this have on children and their futures?
You snap back to reality when you find yourself in the parking lot of your destination, not remembering any of the details from the drive because you were lost in your mind, listening to the voices in your head and forgot to be present. You went from appreciating the beautiful day, the setting sun, that which was happening around you to missing out on how many minutes in your life that you will not be able to get back.
Time for critical thinking, problem solving and reflection is an important part of our every day. However, when your mind is continuously racing with busy thoughts that pinball around with no specific goal, it can be exhausting and deplete not only your energy, but your very soul.
Here are some tips to silence those erratic voices in your head and transform that drive time – or any time – into a productive journey.
When you are at risk for getting lost in your mind, choose something to trigger your awareness and bring you back into the moment. The aim is to ensure that you do not allow those thoughts to spiral out of control. As one thought starts racing to another, put the brakes on before they take off at high speed.
Keep your eyes on the road.
Once you bring yourself back into the moment, focus on one thing you want to think about. Whether it is a personal problem that needs solving, a work project that needs planning or the memory of a good time that you want to relive again, practice focusing on one topic in an effort to afford it the time it deserves. If you stay on topic, you may solve that problem, plan that project or find joy in recalling the past. Your thinking should fuel you, not empty your tank.
You only save 2.51 minutes by driving 15 miles over a 55 mile per hour speed limit. When you speed, you risk reckless driving and accidents. When your thoughts race, you risk reckless thinking which can lead to a higher incidence of mistakes rather than good decisions. That recklessness can lead to exhaustion, frustration and depletion. When you slow down, you make the time to pay attention to your thoughts and discard the anxious, doubtful or random ones that yield no results. By slowing down, you may just get to your destination faster.