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You Go Where You Look

Many years ago, I was teaching my niece how to drive, practicing while she had her permit. After some time in town, we entered the interstate for her first experience on the highway.

Even though she was unaccustomed to driving at this speed, she did well. Luckily, there was also little to no traffic at that point and I could see her relax into the process. Seeing her tense a bit, I glanced in the mirror to see a semi approaching us, moving at a speed that was only slightly faster than ours. In so doing the truck kept getting closer and closer to our car, finally coming directly to our left. Seeing this massive vehicle only feet away was frightening for my niece and she could not stop looking at the semi. As we were now going about the same speed, I noticed that our car was slowly veering to the left. The more she focused on the truck beside us, the more our car began to merge into the left lane. Sensing action must be taken, I firmly but calmly directed my niece to ignore the semi and look straight ahead, focusing only on the road ahead and staying in her lane. She was a bit shaken, but soon regained her confidence and we exited the interstate a few minutes later.

Parking the car, I knew the situation was an opportunity for learning.

“Can I share some insight about the semi on the interstate?” I asked.

“That was so scary,” she replied. “It was so big and I don’t know why I kept drifting toward it.”

“Here’s the thing,” I replied. “I learned this long ago riding a bike and driving motorcycles. In essence, you go where you look. Because you kept looking at the semi to your left, the car slowly moved in the direction of your gaze. Did you notice that when you focused on keeping the car between the lines of your own lane, everything was fine?”

At that point my niece also thanked me for patience and for not yelling at her in that moment, which would have further frightened her. There were clearly two ways to handle that moment, one positive and one negative. The negative approach would have been to yell at her- “Hey, watch where you are going!” Unfortunately, this offers no information as to the correct course of action. The opposite course, “You go where you look” invites the person to consider a different path.

When you think about this principle, it is also a profound life lesson. Where is our gaze? Is it towards the lane we wish to occupy, or is it towards that which we wish to avoid? There are so many examples of this, but two immediately come to mind.

I remember a baseball pitcher relaying a story of being in a jam in an important game- late innings, bases loaded, and two outs. The coach called time and walked to the mound. “For God’s sake, don’t throw this guy anything high and inside.” That is all he said and walked back to the dugout. The only thing the pitcher could think about was not throwing anything high and inside. High and inside. You can probably guess where the pitch went and what happened next. As the pitcher reflected, why couldn’t the coach just said to pitch this guy low and outside?

I will never forget a presentation by World Champion Adventure Racer Robyn Benincasa as she described being in the lead during the last leg of the arduous competition. Her team was ahead of the perpetual winning French team, with only several miles to go on the last event, a kayak race. She was sitting in front of the team leader and could not resist glancing backwards every two minutes to see if the French were approaching. On one of her multiple glances backward, the team leader grabbed her head and spun it forward. “Winning is that way!” (As she said, she spent the next several miles figuring out how to drown him and get away with it, until she realized what a profound statement that was).

Where are we looking, where is our vision taking us? It is worth thoughtful consideration at every level of our existence. Where we look, we will likely go.

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