GETTING BEHIND THE WHEEL: LEARNING TO DRIVE YOUR LIFE

Who decides what's right for you? How to get there? What you are capable of doing? And what happens when a decision produces a bad outcome? Who is behind the wheel of your life? During the process of growing up, certain beliefs, values and behaviors are selectively reinforced or deleted by our parents. As a result, we develop varying degrees of what has been called, "self-esteem." Simply, this may be considered our composite of beliefs that lead to useful outcomes.
People with a healthy level of self-esteem take control of their lives. They think positively, behave confidently, get behind the wheel and steer a determined course toward a future for which they are accountable. To drive your own life, responsibly, you need to be accountable. But what does this mean?
1- Examining your positive beliefs and actively selecting values and behaviors to guide your life that are representative of those positive beliefs. This in contrast to accepting what others tell you to do-- based upon their belief patterns-- absent of any critical thought on your part.
2- Becoming aware of the behaviors and consequences that will result from your decisions or actions.
3- Acting in ways that lead to the fulfillment of a goal.
4- Periodically evaluating your success at moving toward that goal, so you can modify behaviors accordingly.
There are those who convince themselves that personal accountability is frequently an impossible challenge, as it requires considerable deliberation, planning and a range of difficult decisions. In contrast, when the road gets rough, it is often easier to let others drive, and blame them when you hit occasional potholes or become stuck. Then hope you can be rescued by the next available tow truck, so the problem will be fixed...this time. Unfortunately this type of quick-fix fails to provide the range of choices needed to learn to trust yourself; to have flexibility in your behavior, leading to effective and satisfying changes, attributed directly to your efforts. Self-accountability is an active process. It involves driving rather than being driven: You select the roads and directions by referring to your own "map" of where you are going and what you hope to accomplish at any given moment. In this way you are in control of your success and level of satisfaction. "This sounds pretty good, but I'm not sure I understand what you mean by driving your life. Do I need a license to do this? I usually take public transportation. Anyway, what are some examples of people who drive their own lives?"
Have you ever noticed that some people at work do only what is asked and leave the same time every day? In contrast, there are those who perform beyond the limits of their job description, put in long hours, analyze problems and dev- elop creative solutions. Communicating effectively with a spouse or other loved one often involves taking control by acknowledging the ways in which your behavior impacts others. Does your behavior in response to another's represent an understanding of that person's needs? Does it communicate your feelings? Address a potential conflict with suggestions for YOUR contributions to changes? Or do you simply move over to the passenger side, claiming the problem is that you are misunderstood. Often, acting accountably is contextualized. That is, we do it sometimes but not other times.
A person who works diligently toward a goal all day may, through his (her) passivity, fall short at home. To do it more often, it is useful to become aware of the differences write a letter to yourself and respond to the following: 1- If I were to become more self-accountable, what specifically would I do differently at home? Work? In a special interest peer group? Hobby or talent? Although self-accountability can occur at any age, it is essential for healthy self-esteem to begin instilling in children an understanding of how positive beliefs and their attendant behaviors and consequences, lead to useful productive lives. Lives they are never to young to learn to drive!