Just today, my wife and I brought our newborn baby boy home. Oh, wait a minute. That was 16 years ago today! How can that be? From drooling to driving in a nanosecond. In spite of our attempts to make time stand still, my son is ready to quit taking a ride and take the wheel. For him, it is a literal change. For the rest of us, it’s a figurative challenge.

My good friend and bestselling author, David Cottrell, and I discuss this challenge in our latest book, Winners ALWAYS Quit.

On any of life’s journeys, we have to make a choice before we begin the trip. Our options are these: we can be a passenger, or we can be the driver. It’s our choice.

People who choose to be passengers have to go where the driver is going. Passengers have no control over how fast they move ahead, no say about whether rules are observed.

Then again, being a passenger has its appeal. You can just sit in the car and relax, oblivious to your final destination. You can plug in your earbuds and listen to music, or you can nap. You can text a friend on your cell phone or do sudoku puzzles. You don’t have to pay attention to where you are, who’s in front of you, who’s behind you, or whether you’re making progress. Your journey may be pleasant enough, but if you choose to be a passenger, you’re just going along for the ride.

It’s not what happens to us but how we choose to respond to what happens that determines our next move, next path, next relationship, and next risk. If you choose to be a driver, you accept the responsibility for moving toward your goal. You pay attention and focus on getting to your destination. You make decisions on how quickly to move ahead. You avoid potholes and stray ice chests in the road. You decide when to stop and refuel. You may choose to take a detour. You make all the decisions that affect the safety of your passengers and your success in reaching the goal.

The physical distance between a passenger and a driver is less than three feet; the psychological distance is enormous. Which would you choose to be?

Expect the Unexpected

When things are going the way they’re expected to go, most people feel they are in control of their lives. This is an illusion. In the larger sense, you can’t control all the events life throws at you, or even most of them. The only thing you can really control is how you respond to them. It’s like being a defensive driver.

When the unexpected happens, the illusion of control can vanish like your kids at dishwashing time. People react to the unexpected in one of two ways. Some take the role of the victim: “Wasn’t my fault. Nobody could have foreseen it. Nothing I could have done about it.” This is a “passenger” reaction.

Others see an opportunity to truly take control: “Okay, things have changed. Let’s see what we can do about it. Maybe there’s a great opportunity here.” This is the way a “driver” reacts.

A real driver has the remarkable ability to deal successfully with the unexpected, the unusual, the extraordinary. Positively dealing with the unexpected by looking for solutions, not excuses, is the choice winners make.

Believe it or not, the unexpected is going to happen. It’s your choice how you deal with it. You can be a victim, or you can choose to realize that you can make strides toward greater success by taking control of the unexpected.

Do we sometimes fall into the victim trap? Of course. Occasionally feeling sorry for ourselves is natural, but remaining in the victim trap will keep you from achieving success.

Avoiding the victim trap is not easy, but it’s a choice you have to make. You control your next move. Will you sit and sulk, or will you commit to continuing toward your ultimate goal?

Tune in next week for the inside track on how you can jump into the driver’s seat of your life!

Copyright © 2009 by Lee J. Colan and The L Group, Inc.