The seatbelt of self-belief

Bharat Savur | Updated on: Sep 22, 2011


Fear of driving? You can overcome it, with a little self-help.

I'm 48. I've been driving gearless scooters for 15 years without a single accident. Four months ago, I purchased a Maruti Alto. Daily at 6 a.m., I drive to the temple 2 km from my house. But I'm scared to drive in busy traffic, fearing my car may stall, hit another, or other drivers may curse me for slow driving. How do I overcome these fears?

Soman N.T.

In the old film classic The Great Race , Jack Lemmon receives his first driving lesson — on his steering wheel are the words: ‘First, sit' (behind the steering wheel)! Congrats! You've gone far beyond that. And I assure you, you'll go places with your automobile. You'll soon see for yourself that driving is as easy as walking albeit many times faster. Back then, you'd have faltered, fallen after your first baby steps. That didn't stop you. Ditto here. I divide driving in three equal compartments: self-confidence, skill and motor reflexes.

Motivation and momentum (wanting and doing in perpetual motion) are the twin engines that power self-confidence. You showed both, Soman, when you switched from gearless scooter to geared car. That's huge. Now let self-belief take you places. Keep affirming “I can drive this car like a champion!” every time you turn the ignition key. All champs have butterflies in their stomach before every event. Properly harnessed with the seat-belt of self-belief, performance enhances. Let those butterflies keep you alert, and you won't just drive, you'll fly!

The second component is skill. You are skilled. Now, hone it with hours on the road. Practise…practise…practise… A few km today, a few more tomorrow and you'll suddenly feel at home amidst the toughest traffic and snarling drivers.

Finally, regarding motor reflexes — the nervous system behind muscle movement and physical concentration… This is the ‘auto pilot' in brain and body that keeps one moving. Do you consciously plan and execute every walking step? Of course you don't. You just walk naturally, reflexively. Ditto with driving. With practice, the equipment that helps you drive — brakes, clutch, accelerator, gears, steering wheel — become extensions of the corresponding limbs. Over time, you'll be a natural.

Tip: Shift gears when you register speeds over 10 kmph. Examples: first gear, 1 to 10 kmph; second gear, 10 to 20 kmph, and so on. There, you've got the hang of it. Now, go and drive confidently.

How do I eat sensibly when dining out? I don't want to put on weight. I'm 33, 5 ft 4 inches, 55 kg. Some tips, please.

Amita K.

Avoid cheesy, buttery stuff. Order steamed momos/pomfret/rice over fried dishes. Choose a clear soup with vegetables. An open sandwich cuts calories pitted against a closed one. Grilled vegetables are great low-fat add-ons. Opt for tomato sauce over creamy white sauce or mayo. Sip non-sweetened fruit juice. Cut out the coconut chutney and have only sambhar with idli . And yes, exercise a little extra on these dining-out days!

I'm 42 and my present problem is that although I fall asleep quickly by 11 p.m., I'm awakened between 3.45 a.m. and 4.45 a.m. by dreams — not fearful ones, only usual life matters. Then, I can't sleep again. I don't smoke or drink, walk briskly 50 minutes a day in the morning, eat moderately, abstain from sweet and fried foods but have more fruits, vegetables and water. Why do I face this problem?

Name withheld on request

I'm glad you're taking such good care of your body and even your mind to a large extent by leading an active, peaceful, healthy life. As I see it, your mind is sending you important and clear signals that you need to do something that deeply absorbs and fulfils your very spirit. If the mind isn't nourished, it just keeps re-playing the past happenings in the form of running dialogues and/or dreams. I suggest you meditate daily for 10-15 minutes pre-bedtime. Sit comfortably, close your eyes softly and breathe consciously. Relax your whole body. Feel your breath releasing every little knot of tension in your body. Begin at the head and work your way to the toes.

When you're comfortably relaxed, continue breathing until you feel your mind quietening, calming, entering a soothing, crease-free trance, a space of luminous, still silence.

Now, post a quiet intention into this beautiful hush. (The intention can be anything — for peace and well-being for self and all loved ones, for a creative activity.) Remain there as long as possible.

If you don't know what creative activity you'd like to be absorbed in, you'll get a clear answer in the silence. Good luck.

The writer is co-author of the book ‘Fitness for Life'.

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Published on September 22, 2011
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