Are You in the Driver’s Seat?


Let’s look at “driving in a car” as a metaphor for how individuals live their lives.  

It’s important to be an effective and careful driver. When you are driving, you must have your hands securely on the steering wheel and you are aware of the road ahead, the terrain and the weather and you are also paying attention to all of the signs and signals along the way. In life, if you are in the driver’s seat, you are aware of yourself (your emotions, internal stressors, coping skills and your behavior), your environment (everything outside of yourself), and you are interested and positively connected to the important people in your life (Key Elements and Steps). Think about it: are you in the driver’s seat of your life, most, if not all of the time?  Are you aware of yourself, your surroundings, and the people you come in contact with on a regular basis?

You might start to realize that you've been stuck in the passenger seat. Being in the passenger seat is a good start, but it means that you are not taking full responsibility. You may grab the wheel once in a while or offer helpful information to the driver, but you are not behind the wheel. Becoming an effective communicator and improving your self-awareness is the first step to taking more responsibility and allowing yourself to move into the driver’s seat of your life, where you belong.

It’s also reasonable to voluntarily be the passenger in some relationships and let someone else take charge because you trust them, or because they are an authority figure, your boss, etc., as long as you are not compromising your feelings or your self-esteem. Do you think you are in the passenger seat most of the time? If so, can you make some small changes to begin adjusting your behavior?

How about spending time in the backseat? During this time, you’re probably peering over the front seat and observing what’s going on around you, but for the most part, you are not taking any responsibility for driving. You are essentially having little impact on your own life and its direction. Maybe you’re the type of backseat driver, who points things out to the driver or criticizes him/her, but you never take a risk to step up and communicate what you need in a thoughtful way. 

Perhaps it’s easier to coast and not make waves, or maybe your discomfort level is high and communication doesn’t come easily to you. If you are a backseat driver, try to nonjudgmentally figure out what holds you back from stepping up and moving at least into the front passenger seat. Are you in the backseat?

Please, not the trunk!  This is the person who has little awareness about themselves and/or their surroundings. Someone who is in the trunk is feeling or behaving as if they are lost and not in control of their life. This could also include individuals suffering from severe depression, or active addiction. When you are in the trunk, you are merely a follower. There is no interest or regard for your needs, or desires because you have no positive impact on your own journey.  If this is the role you play in your life, please seek some guidance as to how to have a healthier existence and learn how to become more positively involved in your own life. Don’t settle for the trunk, as it is not a healthy place to be. 

At various times in our lives and in different relationships, we take on different roles. It is reasonable to be a passenger sometimes and it’s okay to rest in the backseat for a short time, letting others take the wheel. However, these roles should be conscious decisions that you make to coast or relinquish responsibility for that period of time. Remember, this is about self-awareness and the roles you play. If there is no awareness, the role you play in your own life cannot change.

So where are you in the car?  Are you comfortable in that position?

If not, use the Relationship Protocol model to help you achieve your new goals and desires. If you need extra support, don’t hesitate to seek professional help.