Lessons From A Toyota Master

Several summers ago, my faithful Toyota tried desperately to get my attention on a limiting personal issue. My car refused to go into reverse gear and suddenly embodied ideal human thinking in refusing to do anything except move forward. No matter how I played with the gear selector, it staunchly sat there as if to say, “Nope. I’m only moving forward from now on…no going backwards for me anymore.”

A few thousand dollars later, I corrected this arrogant “attitude,” but the experience left me wondering and reflecting about the direction of my thinking and progress in life.

Over the next several weeks and months I revisited past journal entries and discovered several disturbing trends: the preponderance of dogmatic thoughts throughout with few entries focusing on the present moment or the future, and that journaling occurred heaviest when I needed to whine about my condition or lack of progress. No mystery or surprise that journaling is therapeutic, but I was rather disappointed that there weren’t more happy entries, more pages filled with observations and determinations about life ahead.

From that moment on, I’ve tried to think and journal as though I had a permanently broken reverse gear, a “no reverse” attitude about life. I’d like to think the term “human progress” implies always moving and looking forward, but memories always pull on us to reflect backwards. Things stay happiest when memories remain snapshots and intention focuses ahead. Sometimes we ignore this approach and repeat the past, making the same mistakes again, or failing to make lemonade when handed lemons. Humans can be stubborn critters.

Alternatively, if we lift our heads and look forward instead of at our feet, as though expecting something (the past) or someone to come up from behind us, positive outcomes become everyday events, opportunity doors open more easily, and new horizons appear more frequently… and life is good. I hope to reflect years from now and say, “I used to have a reverse gear, but for the life of me, I can’t remember why.”

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