For over four years, I’ve been driving home nearly the same way each day. When I’m on this route, automatic pilot takes over. In fact, I know it so well I hardly see my surroundings anymore. Until recently, when the city added a stoplight where a four-way stop had always been. For weeks, each time I came to what had been a four-way stop, I would stop, quickly check for other cars (which were seldom there) and put my foot on the gas. Once, I found myself halfway through the intersection before I realized what I’d done.
I had to reprogram my habits, relearn my routine. I had to get conscious and deliberate. I had to take note of the surroundings that would cue the stop-and-wait instead of the stop-and-go. It didn’t take too long, but I had to shelve the automatic pilot and get present. And it reminded me of all the ways this is like learning something new, or reliving one of those teaching reflexes we always say we’ll get better at: we have to stop, wait, pay attention, and get deliberate about the change. Over and over again. This week we’re highlighting a new Observation Challenge, which does just that: reminds us how to pay attention in order to move forward. These challenges certainly help remind me that even though I may make a lot of my mistakes at empty intersections, I’m no less determined to untangle those habits and get better. Enjoy!
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