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Driving karma: You get what you give

I recently exited a parking lot in my area into a lane that immediately ended and required me to merge left into the through lane. You know the situation, where people charge up the right side and squeeze in? I signalled and settled in to wait a while as the line of traffic was steady as far back as I could see and I’m not the “force my way in” type of guy (anymore).

To my surprise and delight, the first car that had the opportunity, braked and waved me in and I joined the line. After completing my lane change, I waved back with my right hand from inside ("Thanks") and the generous driver who let me in flashed his lights back ("No problem, you're welcome"). I smiled. Good karma indeed!

Such an easy moment, a light touch on the brakes, a casual gesture and I’m in line without drama or frustration. I’m happy to have been let in and he appreciated my thanks. It got me thinking: I see countless acts of courtesy every day when I drive but I listen to endless diatribes from others about how discourteous everyone is these days on the road. What’s going on here?

I believe in karma — You get what you give... you attract to you, events and experiences that are consistent with the behaviour that you practise and your beliefs and expectations. If you expect others to be jerks about their driving, you watch for it and naturally notice it. As a consequence, you may feel justified in driving like a jerk yourself and attract even more jerks and discourteous drivers into your experience as they react to your driving style.

Now, you could choose to drive aggressively and defend your actions by arguing that this is the only way to deal with all the idiots on the road, but this attitude betrays an underlying belief that defensive driving means that the best defense is a strong offence. You may or may not be religious or spiritual, go to church, pray, meditate or practice a faith at all, but fundamentally we all know right from wrong and retaliation or aggression isn’t the answer.

Every spiritual leader ever, professed peace and the importance of tolerance, forgiveness and the inherent goodness in all others regardless of their behaviour in the moment. You and I have both behaved badly at some point but has that doomed us to purgatory and forever tarnished us as a bad person?

We recently lost Nelson Mandela who was an inspiration to the entire world and he said that “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

In fact, we are all imperfect people struggling to find our way through life, some more skilled in some ways and less in others. Compassion and forgiveness is an appropriate response to poor driving skills seen in others or even intentional aggressive driving.

Karma is Karma. You get what you give. Whatever you believe about driving and other drivers, it’s going to be true... for you. And treating others poorly will just come back to you someday.

But what if you chose a different reality? What if you could just choose to think differently and try out different driving behaviour? You will certainly get what you give in this case also. Will you stop seeing or experiencing discourteous drivers? Likely not but you will begin to attract and notice the good guys out there that don’t tailgate, and do let you in, that don’t block the fast lane, that signal and wait for a gap instead of forcing the issue. You will continue to get what you give, but it will all be different because you will be giving differently.

The reality that we live in is mostly of our own creation. Living in a world where we focus our judgement outward critically and self-righteously assessing everyone else might make us feel superior, but at the expense of our own happiness and joy.

You may have a GPS in your vehicle that guides you to your destination, but each of us has another compass; an internal moral compass that if we listen to before acting or reacting impulsively will guide us to the best outcome for all.

So when you next drive, refer to your internal compass about right and wrong and apply it to yourself first before judging others.

Try giving a bit and patiently watching for it to come around as it certainly will, if you just look for it. It’s just driving karma.

Spencer McDonald

Spencer McDonald is the president and founder of Thinking Driver, a driver training and development company in Surrey, B.C. Spencer’s formal education is in psychology and motivation, and has brought these fields together with road safety and education to develop attitude-based driver safety programs. Visit www.thinkingdriver.com for more information.
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