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Awareness: Always Getting Better

Awareness needs constant awareness and focus. I know—you can’t use a word to define itself. I had written a previous blog regarding AWARENESS, so obviously, it was on my mind, and I was keenly aware of it. Or was I?

I was out of town on Sunday morning filling in as pulpit supply for a pastor on vacation. On my way back into town, it was my intention to return my previous day’s rental Redbox movie to one of its many locations. I had it sitting in the console area of the car, but I did not pay enough attention to it until I got home and was gathering my things. My “awareness” focus had taken a nap. As a result, I now needed to run one more errand. I remain a bit of a perfectionist, so I was annoyed and disappointed with myself.

On my way to Redbox, I arrived at an intersection. The stoplight was red, and there were two available left turn lanes from which to choose. I chose the leftmost one because it was the shortest. However, as I approached, I realized that the only car in the lane was stopped approximately one car length back from the intersection. Since we were in the turn lane, the left blinker was in use, but then I noticed another important fact—the right turn signal was also in use. The flashers were on!

I made a quick change of lanes and moved into the right-hand lane of the two left turn lanes. I was probably 90 percent into the lane, and sitting a little crooked from one lane to the next, so I suspected that I would contribute to making it more apparent that the car was in a more “permanent” stopped position at the intersection. Then I watched as a pickup truck pulled into the left turn lane as well. The driver was not aware of the flashers or me sitting at an angle facing into the rightmost lane. When it was time to make the left turn, the right lane proceeded and the left lane remained stopped, except for the truck pulling up right next to the car’s bumper. And then the driver started honking. It wasn’t a terribly mean honk, but it seemed a little aggressive, given the fact that the car tried to signal its stalled fashion with its flashers. By the time the truck’s driver realized that the car was stalled, they had missed their turn.

I ran my errand and came back through that same intersection. I watched another person in a utility vehicle go through the same exact scenario as the pickup truck. The signal changed. The utility vehicle pulled forward, stopped, and then honked. I had my windows down, so I heard the driver yell out in the direction of the vehicle behind, though probably not loud enough, “I ran out of gas!” Again, this person acted without an appropriate level of awareness and missed the turn. I want to point out that I was in a car and noticed the distance from the intersection, giving me a clue as I drove up. The other vehicles were taller vehicles and had a better opportunity to see the situation but did not.

Where and when do you need to increase your awareness and cognitive abilities to improve your situation? Occasionally, we turn on our “autopilot.” We make mistakes. Yet we need to be careful and fully alert. “Autopilot” can be more dangerous than forgetting to return a movie. We may be a “natural” with some skillset; however, that is not the norm. If we really want to grow skills, it doesn’t happen by dreaming about it or thinking about it. We only get better, with any skill, with practice.

We can accept our mistakes, but we also should learn from them. If you make a mistake, first forgive yourself. If you make the same mistake more than once, change something to keep from repeating it. If you aren’t sure what to change, then let me share some advice that my father shared with me: “Do something, even if it is wrong.” If this doesn’t work to keep from making the mistake, you’ll at least learn what not to do. Then try something else.

It is often said that experience is the best teacher. Let’s take that a step further. Evaluated experience is the best teacher. And beyond that, learn from others’ experiences as well.

Blessings, my friend. Keep your gas tank full.

And, by the way, if you do run out of gas, try to do so where there’s a shoulder to the road. (Learned experience.) It saves the further embarrassment of people pulling up behind you.

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