Shifting Gears

Image: graur razvan ionut /


I travel a lot and often times it means endless hours driving a car. My recent five hour trip from Indianapolis to Detroit came with the added bonus of an additional half-hour spent sitting in a powerless McDonald’s parking lot, waiting for a monumental thunderstorm to pass. My rented Chrysler 300 kept trying to communicate with me in neon blue L.E.D. letters. It sent me the following coded message: P R N D.

With nothing but windshield time before me, I tried to decode this message from my temporary steel traveling companion and see if I could put my mental gears in motion.

P—was fairly easy. Park. Not the pleasant place to picnic and play, but a way to choose to stay securely where ever you are, even with your engine running. I parked while the storm raged around me and parked for a bio-break on the trip and finally chose “P” when I arrived at my hotel for the next couple of days. In “P” no one was going anywhere and we are so sure that we can even leave the car by itself and fully expect to find it where we left it, assuming we chose to park in a legal and secure zone. Not much happens in park. You can take time to wait out a life’s storm in park. You can take time to reflect on where you’ve been and where you are headed and where you are in park. OK, I’ll admit to even some romantic preludes, in my youth, in park. But one thing is certain. You cannot get to where you’re going while still in park. I know, I’ve revved a couple of parked engines to no avail. To get to your final destination, (a word that sounds a lot like destiny) you must make a “shift.”

To get on with your life’s travels you have a couple of choices. The first is “R” for reverse. Often times we have to motor two steps backwards in order to move forward and reverse is there to help. Reverse wants to take us to where we have already been. It’s harder to look back and try to see where you are going. Object’s in your mirror may appear larger or closer than they actually are. You must perform driver’s yoga to twist your torso to see your path behind. It’s a little uncomfortable. It’s easy to back into things. Like old bad memories that become life’s speed bumps and parking blocks. Reverse is sometimes necessary, but it’s more about where you’ve been and less about where your headed.

N—Neutral allows you to momentarily slip into limbo. It’s a place to pause for a second to confirm you are really ready to get it into gear and move on. If you breakdown along your way, good old “N” will let you coast or get a good samaritan’s push. Neutral is not a safe place to stay. Gravity can work on you to pull you in directions you may not want to go. I like the feeling of being in control provided by the other gears better.

D—Drive is where the action is! Me and big “D” spend a lot of time together. I like to think that I have a lot of “D” in my personal makeup but don’t want to become too driven. Drive is about moving forward, no matter how slowly in a life construction zone, to get to your final goal. Drive is what get’s you to where you’re going and hopefully gets you home. You’ve got to choose “D” to get anywhere in life. “D” can also be a little scary, because that’s where all the danger is out on the road. Combined with a “GPS” (God’s Purpose and Spirit) a person can get about anywhere with “D” and enough fuel and proper maintenance. I admit I like “D” best of all the gears. Sometimes I choose to go fast, and sometimes slow. Sometimes I choose cruise control and leave some of the driving to “D.” As life’s scenery passes at more than a mile a minute, “D” and my big “G” co-pilot take me on my life’s journey and on many adventures.

What gear are you in?

Where are you headed? The choice is yours and your destination awaits your arrival.

Are you stuck in park, languishing in neutral or maybe spending too much time going in reverse?

Signal your intentions, shift into drive and take your life out for a spin. If you get lost, don’t be afraid to ask for directions. If the storm is too bad to see clearly ahead, stop and wait for it to blow through.

If you pass me along the way, please wave with your whole hand.

Buckle up. This trip called life can be a wild ride sometimes, but it’s worth the trip!

Drive safely.  See you out on life’s highway.

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About Andrew W Dix, MS, BCC
Author, Board Certified Executive Business Coach, Trainer, Reiss Motivation Profile Master and Private Pilot. Expertise in motivational intelligence, leadership development, strengths, management, coaching, and change management. Available for keynote addresses.

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