Sue, my older brother’s high school friend, possessed the 1980s high school trifecta; a sense of style, popularity, and a tan. To me everything Sue did was cool. The absolute coolest thing about Sue was the way she drove. Sue drove barefoot with her seat so far back her tanned toes scarcely touched the pedals. I very much wanted to be cool like Sue when I learned to drive. I knew I could not drive barefoot as my fair skinned Irish toes would look like corpse feet on the pedals. But I certainly could have a cool driver’s seat position.

A few weeks after receiving my driver’s license, with my seat set Sue-style, I drove too close to the garage and “scraped” my mom’s Cutlass Supreme. I chalked the accident up to my inexperienced driving not realizing my seat position may have been the cause of the “scraping.” 

Over the next few weeks, despite the scraping incident, my dad agreed to teach me to drive his Ford Escort which sported manual transmission. I thought I was so cool learning to drive stick as none of my friends were stick shift drivers. Plus, once I learned to drive the Ford Escort, I would feel doubly cool because then I could drive a stick shift, Sue-style.

A short time later, I received permission to drive the Ford Escort to church. The plan was to pick up my friend Karen along the way and show off my sweet stick shift, Sue style driving. Unfortunately for me, my dad, and the Ford Escort, I failed to absorb the necessity of firmly planted feet on the clutch and the brake to be in control of the car’s speed. 

When I pulled up in front of Karen’s house, my feet could not gain sufficient control over the pedals to reduce my speed. I jumped the curb and slammed into the lamp post. This was no “scraping” accident.” I reluctantly phoned home.

When my dad arrived, I burst into tears, told him I was an idiot, and swore I was never driving again. My dad quietly responded, “I am sorry you had an accident but do not call yourself an idiot. Everyone makes mistakes and the way to be a better driver is to drive.” He insisted I drive home from the accident location.  

That day I learned three valuable lessons. One, I had an incredibly wise dad. Two, I needed to be true to myself. And three, it mattered how I “spoke” to myself. 

The way we speak to ourselves and correcting negative talk may be one of the best ways to achieve success according to Jim Loehr, a world-renowned performance psychologist.

Loehr states that his research has found the power broker in our life is the voice you never hear, the voice in our head (our private voice). Loehr explains that studies have shown the private voice begins to form in our head around age five likely from the authority figures in our life. If it is positive, it can really spur on success. Unfortunately, many of our private voices are harsh inner critics. Harsher than any coach. A harsh private voice will create a barrier to overcome obstacles.

Loehr insists that if we can provide that private voice with a different script, one with positive language and tone, we can transform that harsh inner critic into the best coach we can have. 

Loehr also said his research has found that our treatment of others determines our personal fulfillment and life satisfaction. 

The life of Andre Agassi, the tennis great, seems to support Loehr’s personal fulfillment research. In his autobiography, Open, (receiving a ridiculous number of five-star reviews on Amazon), Agassi writes that it was not until he began to mature and think more of doing for others through philanthropy, real love, and family that he found his tennis success fulfilling and satisfying.  

I agree with Jim Loehr’s theory that the treatment of others leads to personal fulfillment and life satisfaction. Like Andre Agassi, I feel at my best and happiest when helping other people. This was true when my husband Mike and I created an estate plan for our family. It was satisfying knowing we had finally checked creating a will/estate plan off our To-Do list. Perhaps, doing the same will bring you a sense of personal fulfillment too.

Theresa Clancy, Attorney at Law

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