Fewer and fewer people have an opportunity to learn how to drive a standard car, which is too bad because in doing so you learn important lessons about timing and develop a complex and useful coordination that can be hard to find elsewhere. Anyone who has learnt this skill likely experienced the lurching starts and occasional stall that served as embarrassing reminders of your inexperience. You may also have seen the owner of the car in the right seat cringing as you ground the gears instead of shifting them smoothly.
The same process works out in life. Some people develop an ability to smoothly shift from one gear to another, while others for whatever reason fail to at an early age. Those who can make the inevitable shifts seamlessly, while those who can’t make the ride uncomfortable and tiresome for themselves and others near them.
In a car, the driver unloads the gas pedal with the right foot, depresses the clutch pedal with the left, shifts gears with his left or right hand depending on the vehicle, unloads the clutch and simultaneously depresses the throttle. The timing is important as is the amount of pressure used on the clutch, throttle and gear shifter. A lot to think about separately, this works out in a fluid motion when you get used to it.
The early days of driving a standard car tell the driver a lot about himself. Is he patient? Does he have a good sense of timing? Does he force things when they don’t fit? Does he tense up when the process doesn’t work out as he had intended or expected? Is he easily frustrated or embarrassed? Does he improve over time? To be sure, every one of these self-discoveries point to a general pattern in the way he deals with his world.
Take a moment to examine how you’ve handled the changes in your life. Would you describe your function in these critical phases of living as graceful, awkward, relaxed or nerve-wracking? Did you make the shift invisible or did you make the headlines, sharing your discomfort with anyone in sight?
As with driving, life is a process of idling, accelerating, cruising and slowing, punctuated by gear shifts. How you handle those shifts will set the stage for success…or a stall…depending upon your ability to change gears.