When dealing with distractions and obstacles in our way, we need to keep our focus on the end goal
By André van Heerden, Communications Director
I don’t know how much I remember from taking defensive driving lessons many years ago, but something that has stayed with me is aim-high steering.
It’s the practice of looking further ahead to where you’re driving, rather than concentrating on what’s immediately in front of your vehicle. When making a turn, my driving instructor said that I should be looking to where the turn ended and where I’d be going rather than navigating the actual turn. It takes a bit of practice. The natural tendency, especially when nervous and inexperienced, is to concentrate on the space just above the hood of the car.
The instructor said that if you watch a car in front of you making a turn and you see the car adjusting their wheels as they go, the driver is likely looking right in front of them. It’s an uneven and jerky path. They have to keep making corrections because what’s immediately in front of them doesn’t lead to exactly where they want to go. The short or low focus takes them momentarily off course. (Or they may just be looking at their phone!)
It sounds simple but it is something that has to be practised and remembered. When I’m driving along a particularly windy road, I intentionally look further ahead and into the distance. The drive becomes much smoother and easier than if l looked at the turn I’m making. Even though I know it works, I still sometimes worry that I’ll cut a corner and either drift across the centre lane or drive too far onto a shoulder. But while I’m looking into the distance, my periphery vision is still keeping me where I should be. By trusting aim high steering, the drive is smooth and the turns are perfect.
I’ve noticed something similar when carrying a full cup of coffee. When it’s so full that there’s a danger of it spilling as I move with it, I’ve often slowed down and watched the coffee in the cup to make sure it doesn’t lap out. But as I walk the coffee begins to slop back and forth and invariably small spills occur. One solution is to not fill my cup so much, but another solution is to trust that I can walk and keep my hand steady. When I do this and look ahead to where I’m going—and not watch the liquid in the mug—there’s hardly any movement to the coffee and no spills. I can even walk quicker and with far less worry.
This principle can be applied to work projects and goals. Even when dealing with distractions and obstacles in our way, we need to keep our focus on the end goal in the distance. If we allow ourselves to be so concerned with present issues that we lose sight of where we’re going, we’ll steer ourselves off course. And when a problem is particularly acute (a turn particularly steep), that’s when it becomes even more important for us to concentrate on where we’re going.
If you’ve ever tried balancing a metre stick on your finger, you’ll know that the trick is to watch the top of the stick and not your finger. If you watch your finger, the stick will fall. If you trust that your finger and hand and body will move and adjust on their own, and if you keep your eyes up and glued to the top of the stick, you’ll keep the stick balanced. Little problems with balance—or challenges with a work project—are always going to occur, but they shouldn’t derail what you’re doing. Aim-high steering works, you just need to remember it and trust it.