Thursday, February 21, 2008


Motorists must frequently yield as they go about their way on San Antonio's roadways. If we were in California, we would find stop signs in many of the places we encounter yield signs in Texas. In a locale where the DOT has insufficiently planned for off ramps, Texans will create their own, evidenced by the worn tracks in the grass along our highways. No doubt the transportation bureaucracy was fearful enough of a well armed population to put too many restrictions on their movements.

I am called to yield routinely on my way home at the I-10 and 1604 interchange. I-10 travelers heading East yield to 1604 drivers entering the freeway. I have decided that this opportunity to merge is a glimpse at the quality of people's decision making.

It is fascinating to observe driver responses to the interchange and the directions of the yield sign. The one I find the most perplexing, and sometimes irritating, is the driver that stops when it is evident no circumstance requires them to do so. As these inconsiderates and incompetents sit in front of me divining when they should continue, I wonder how this behavior reflects their responses to life in general. explains the action of yielding like so..."A yield sign calls on the driver to do the following: Slow down, defer to oncoming or intersecting traffic, stop when necessary, proceed when safe, and remain aware of oncoming vehicles." Hmm, why do we stop when it is unnecessary, meaning no cars present in the off ramp? Do we stop when we should yield in all aspects of our lives?

We can find our travels along the highway rich with metaphors for life's lessons if we look for them...

Slow Down - One of my favorite books is by Joseph Bailey and Richard Carlson, Slowing Down To The Speed Of Life. In it the authors teach the mental health model, Health Realization, based on the work of Sydney Banks. Banks identifies three principles: Mind, Thought and Consciousness. Wisdom (divine and otherwise) will inform us, our sensory system gives us input and and grace bestows the mental process of decision making. Stopping in fear, without apparent or imminent danger is an act of the weak and the vulnerable. Our skills of assessment must be developed and improved so we make the appropriate decision based on the reality of circumstances we face. We have to learn to read the signs we receive accurately or we could end up at the side of the road with our ass rear ended because the person behind didn't anticipate our poor choice.

Defer To Others - Our world could use a whole lot more of courteous, polite and well mannered behavior as we interact with each other. Civility is what's called for. Road rage is a modern day manifestation of yesteryear's duel - offensive transgressions could get your maimed or killed. Let others go first. Wait your turn. Blend in sometimes.

Stop When Necessary - There are times when the best course of action is to do nothing at all. Slowing down allows for assessment, stopping allows for reassessment and reevaluation. When stopped, we provide time for observation, contemplation and reflection. Rolling stops are not allowed.

Proceed When Safe - A well known phenomenon in business is "analysis paralysis." It is a tendency towards procrastination. Output is hindered by all the input, making us unproductive. The benefits of an opportunity are lost, a cost of poor decision making ability. Fear of failure can get us bogged down in the details or as we relentlessly research or tweak. We can fall prey to not making any decision at all for fear of making the wrong one. We have to get honest and realistic about the element of risk we face. As soon as the danger has passed, step on the gas.

Remain Aware - The wisdom of the Buddha's admonition to be mindful can mean life or death to a member of the Delta Force in a gunfight. One of my students struggles to maintain his concentration. I once asked him, "If I were a terrorist with a gun to your head, and your life depended on it, would you be able to focus then." He answered, "Yes, of course." . I told him, "Your life does depend on it, right here, right now." Just as staying alert matters to those seeking spiritual enlightenment, warriors wishing to live to fight another day or a student needing to execute movement with precision, it matters that we stay alert in our lives, at all times. By the way, multitasking is the enemy of awareness, consciousness or attentiveness. Glance back behind you but don't fixate on what is there. Look both ways. Scan what is up ahead. Clean the windshield every once in a while.

Life is a highway
I wanna ride it all night long
If you're going my way
I wanna drive it all night long
-Rascal Flats

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