Last week I bought a new car. Isn't it cute? It is a Ford C-Max hybrid and if you are interested you can read more about it here. I bought a hybrid because I am trying to do my part for the environment and because who doesn't like the idea of buying less gas? The car is fun to drive and much more roomy than it appears at first glance.
One of the really cool things about this car is it gives you instant feedback. There is a constant stream of information about your driving performance and gives you cues about how to improve. If you accelerate quickly the car will tell you that you are using gas rather than the battery and your gas mileage is going down. At the end of every trip the car tells you how far you traveled, how many miles were using battery and your overall miles per gallon of gas.
For someone like me this car and its constant stream of "encouragement" is all at once a nerdy joy and my worst nightmare.
When you break the car somehow magically takes the kinetic energy of the forward motion and uses it to recharge the battery. And, every time you stop the car gives you a score about how well you did returning power to the car. When you glide to a slow stop the C-Max congratulates you with a cheerful "100% return!" When some jerk in front of you slams on their brakes because they were busy texting instead of watching traffic you get a disappointing "48% returned."
This morning on my very slow and steady commute through town I was averaging 35 mpg and 100% energy returned to the engine. I was feeling good. Then I lost myself in a moment of "how lucky am I?" and the light up ahead turned red. I braked with a result of "97% returned" and my first thought was "what happened to the other 3%?" In that moment I realized this hybrid car feedback and my reactions to it are a sad example of how I manage to find fault with myself at every turn.
No matter how hard I work to do the right thing, no matter how well I perform I simply cannot focus on my success. Instead I examine where I have failed and how I could have improved. I worry myself sick when I am misunderstood or when my actions hurt others unintentionally. I drive myself crazy over the 3% in every area of my life..
Maybe I should turn the car notifications off. Or, perhaps I should find a way to take joy in the 97%.