Lessons from Teaching My Teen to Drive

Teaching my 17-year-old to drive made me realize how often we operate on autopilot, missing growth opportunities. Using neuroscience insights, I explore how setting goals, staying motivated, having support, and practising new skills can help us break free from routine and embrace personal development. Stay curious and intentional!

Celine Bentley

7/8/20241 min read

I'm currently teaching my 17 year old to drive. I immediately realised the first hurdle (as those of you who have been there, know): - I was unconsciously competent" I couldn't think of the steps to follow when he turned on the engine!

Once we've learnt a skill or behavior, our brain will operate on autopilot.

I was reminded of how easy it is to go into autopilot on a day to day basis, in so many ways. It's easy and necessary. Neuroscience shows us how the brain prefers familiarity and seeks the easiest route - which is not always the ideal route.

The downside of staying on autopilot is we don't open ourselves up to opportunities to learn and grow our self awareness. When we truly open ourselves to learn and grow, much like learning to drive, the following steps help to ensure change is sustainable:

  • We need a goal (e. g to become a competent driver)

  • We need to really WANT this outcome (e. g having a license brings independence). We choose to do it.

  • We need a supportive environment with a delicate balance between feeling vulnerable with just the right amount of tension to keep us motivated (e. g encouragement and belief in what's possible)

  • We need repetition and practice so that , simply put, new neural pathways develop in the brain) e. g muscle memory

  • We need to measure out progress (e. g obtaining a license or responding in a desirable way to previous triggers)

As in receiving coaching to develop a new habit, counselling to learn new ways of responding or attending a workshop to learn a new skills, the same ingredients will apply.

With regular conscious effort, change happens. Which is why learning new ways of responding can take time and can sometimes be hard and uncomfortable. BUT....it can also be fun and rewarding... a little like wearing the L (Leaner driver sign) in one's head and heart - with the smile of anticipation that many leaner drivers do!

Stay curious and stay intentional.