The Myth of the ‘Right Way’

As I adjusted my car’s side mirrors this morning, I found myself thinking—for probably the 507th time—“I wish I could remember the right way to adjust these mirrors!” 

I can recall with striking detail the layout of my sophomore Driver’s Ed classroom, the rotation of primary-colored polo shirts that my instructor wore, and the frigid temperature of the overly-air-conditioned building; but short of the direction to always lock our car doors so that a hijacker can’t jump in at a stop sign (they actually taught this), I cannot remember a single practical tip or driving strategy, including the proper way to adjust side mirrors. 

This absence of memory frustrates me each time I hop in the car after my husband has driven our shared Prius. I move the mirrors up and down at random until they seem to give me a good view, and every time I wonder if I’ll be missing something vital by having angled too far left or right.  As I fuss with the controls, I worry that not knowing the “right way” to adjust my mirrors could have expensive, if not deadly, repercussions and I feel certain that knowing the secret trick to mirror adjustment would make me invincible to side-swipes and errors born of blindspots. 

The illogic of this mindset finally dawned on me as I merged onto Interstate 95 this morning.  The broken record of frustration, worry and self-critique was interrupted by the thought: maybe there isn’t necessarily a “right way” to adjust mirrors. Maybe, the right way is simply the effective way. Maybe 10th grade driver’s ed taught a useful method, but maybe I’m also capable of figuring out an equally successful technique on my own. Maybe I’ve been adjusting my side mirrors just fine all along. 

What’s satisfyingly true about mirror-adjustment—that there isn’t one right way to do it—is true in so many other areas of life as well. Regardless of what magazine articles, blog posts, advice columns and your mother-in-law might lead you to believe, there isn’t a single best way to invest money, feed your children, fold towels, compose emails, wash your car, meet new people, and so on. And telling yourself that there is one right way can be destructive; in the case of my car mirrors, it led to a frequent stream of negativity, and in other cases, it has prevented me from doing something good out of fear that it wouldn’t be exactly “right.”

Together, let’s reject the mindset that there’s one right way to do the various tasks of life and let’s say yes to trusting ourselves, following our instincts, and putting our best attempts forward.    

 

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Teresa lives in Providence, Rhode Island, where she works as a Director of Faith Formation at a Catholic Church and dabbles in hospital chaplaincy. She has a BA in English, a Master’s in Divinity, and a passion for thinking about the intersection of spirituality, self-improvement, and well-being. Her perfect day includes slowly savoring a morning cup of coffee, reading for work and for fun, and receiving snail mail.