How to… Back Up to Move Forward

Unfortunately, my history with backing up a vehicle is somewhat embarrassing. During driver’s training, I backed into the school van while learning to parallel park (another driving challenge for me), and when I was 16, I backed into my brother’s car early one morning (never told him about that). I’ve backed a rental car over a huge boulder and several large men had to lift it off for me (never told my husband about  that one… he knows now though). The passenger rearview mirror was broken on my husband’s truck when I hit the side of the garage backing out (he definitely knows about that one), and the back passenger side of my Jeep was scraped when I backed into a trailer parked in our driveway. My most recent backing up incident was in a Barnes & Noble parking lot into another vehicle (see photo). So while I haven’t had any auto incidences while driving forward, backing up has caused me some problems.

If my issues with backing up ended only with what happens when I’m driving a car, perhaps this lesson would have alluded me. But life seems to have those backing up times that don’t always go so well either. Up until a couple of years ago, my past continued to haunt me, meaning I kept repeating the same types of mistake. Oddly, the same principles involved in the mistakes that I made when backing up a vehicle are the same reasons I kept making the same mistakes in life. These 5 principles exist as essential parts of the learning process involved with going backwards in order to move forward in life.

  1. Don’t let hurry motivate. I backed into my brother’s car because I couldn’t see through the frost on my window, which I failed to clean off because I was in a hurry. Failing to plan ahead led to this mistake, as it so often does in life. A little pre-planning and leaving margin for unexpected tasks like scraping frost off a window can prevent a lot of life’s blunders.
  2. Be sure to see when looking. The Barnes & Noble incident happened simply because I did not see the car when I looked before backing up. This is akin to my kids not seeing the milk right in front of them in the refrigerator. Sometimes we get so into the routines of life that we fail to truly see what we are looking at. Slowing down and taking time to see helps prevent mistakes.
  3. Realize that others are often hurt worse by our mistakes. When I hit the car in the Barnes & Noble parking lot, there was way more damage to the other person’s vehicle than to my Jeep. He definitely needed to get his fixed, while mine had a barely visible scratch (see photo). But, with Michigan’s “no fault” laws, no legal responsibility existed. Realizing that our mistakes hurt others often more than they hurt us can be a tremendous source of guilt. Learning from this hopefully motivates us to avoid making choices that will hurt the ones we love.
  4. Take ownership, and avoid placing blame. When I backed into the trailer in our driveway, it of course wasn’t my fault. I mean, the trailer isn’t usually there, and it was below my view enough that I couldn’t see it when I looked. Yet, I knew it was there. In many of my backing-up incidences, my first instinct was to blame someone or something else for the mistake. This is probably the hardest principle to learn. Yet, because I know I can only control me, I am forced to take ownership of my own mistakes and to break the habit of trying to blame others.
  5. Let go of pride & embarrassment. Each of these backing-up incidences caused me some embarrassment. In my pride, I worried about what others thought of me with each mistake I made. Failing to truly comprehend the fact that everyone makes mistakes can help you let go of your pride and not allow the mistake to dwell in a way that keeps you from moving forward.

I love the parallel parking technology in newer vehicles today, and I would really like it on my next vehicle. Yet, it’s not a necessity because I’ve found ways to work around having to parallel park. (Let my husband do it, find another parking spot or drive into a “parallel” spot if there’s enough room and backing up isn’t necessary.) Now, if someone came up with a vehicle that backed up all by itself, that might be a necessity.

There really aren’t any workarounds for backing up.It just can’t be avoided. We must look behind us from time to time to be able to learn from our past and then move on in a way that allows us to use the past to positively shape our future. In other words, we each need to learn how to Put Your Behind in the Past. Or, we can continue to make the same mistakes over and over again and essentially relive our pasts. Ultimate, the choice for each of us is to learn from the past or to let it haunt us.

DISCUSSION: What patterns of mistakes do you have in your life? How can you learn from them in order to move forward & stop hitting walls that force you to essentially relive your past?