By far the toughest aspect of truck driving is handling the endless stream of mental challenges you'll face day after day, month after month, year after year. It never ends. There are two things you have to be really careful about, and we all do them sometimes. I like to refer to them as "keeping score" and creating a "negativity filter". Both can be devastating. Not only can they prevent you from enjoying your truck driving career, but they can drain your energy and prevent you from being as safe and alert as you would normally be.
People who believe they have bad luck tend to have a "negativity filter" that causes them to remember the negatives more vividly than the positives. They give the negatives a heavier weighting than the positives and it affects their outlook and personality. We've all known people like this. They're the "poor me" type. At times we've all been guilty of this. Hopefully it's rare, but for some it's an everyday thing.
The "poor me" type might find a $100 bill laying in the parking lot on the way into the truck stop. Then they get a free meal for being the 100th customer that day and a pretty girl (or hot guy!) smiles and winks at them as they walk back to the truck. But if they so much as bump their knee climbing back into the truck, they immediately get aggravated with their bad luck and their day is shot because like always, something had to go wrong.
You can spot these types coming from a mile away. They look frazzled and exhausted. They always seem to have a look of exasperation on their face. Their posture is slouchy and they seem like they're hanging on by a thread. Heck, their face would probably crack if they actually smiled! Do not allow yourself to fall into the trap of focusing on the negatives and excluding the positives. Count your blessings and enjoy the day. There is always so much to be thankful for, and your safety and sanity may depend on it!
Over the years I've found that most truck driving veterans are as pleasant and content as a monk, or as miserable and agitated as a hungry bear. There seems to be few that fall in between. Why is that?
People tend to "keep score" as they go through life. They keep track of how many good or bad things happen throughout their day. Your bias toward the positive or negative events will build up over time. Eventually, like a snowball that grows bigger as it rolls down a hill, you'll develop a tremendously positive or negative perspective on life and it has a profound affect on your personality and perceptions. It can also play a big role in safety. Being upset over something little that didn't go your way can be exhausting and distracting, which can lead to much worse.
Trucking is incredibly challenging. It's full of pitfalls. But it's also filled with blessings. You have to be really careful about how you perceive things in your day to day travels. Is a headlight going out or a hole in your air line bad luck, or is it simply just part of the job? Were the cold eggs you were served this morning typical of the way you're always being treated, or was the waitress simply distracted by a phone call from her child's teacher? Before you convince yourself that what you're experiencing is your "typical bad luck" or a sign of a bad day to come, really think it through and keep a healthy perspective. Remember that the beautiful scenery, interesting people, and challenging adventures are also part of the job and they show just how lucky you are to be driving a big ole American big rig for a living!
Every day on the road has its ups and downs. You have to keep a healthy perspective on things and be very careful about what you decide is important, and what you brush aside as nothing to be concerned with. When things would get rough for me I'd always think of this one line from an old song:
"Don't you worry...sometimes you've just gotta let it ride"
The song is totally unrelated to trucking, but somehow that one line always stuck with me and snapped me out of it when I was letting things get to me. Find something like that for yourself. Maybe it's an old song from high school. Maybe it's a picture of your wife and kids. We all have great memories and little triggers that make us feel better. Find yours, and use that to help yourself stay positive.
We have a massive responsibility out there on the road. We have to make sure we keep ourselves focused and alert at all times so we can get the job done and get home safely. Not only that, but we all would like to enjoy ourselves out there on the highway. Keep a positive outlook on life and don't sweat the small stuff. It will pay off in a big way over time.
I've completed my first year as a truck driver and here's a rundown of some surprises about the job and the lifestyle of an over the road trucker.
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