Imagine you’re zooming along in your vehicle when out of nowhere another driver swerves into your lane. Instantly, you need to act! Keep going straight ahead. Steer away from the encroaching vehicle. Slam on your brakes. Accelerate and try to miss a collision. Or, well, do nothing and pray and hope for the best.

Whether we’re actually on the road or using this analogy for everyday life, it is wise to heed the advice: stay in your own lane.

Although I don’t remember where I first heard the counsel to stay in my own lane, it is a wise nugget that I carry around in my mental wellness toolbox. The phrase helps me bend when life dares me to break. I also improve my daily navigation of keeping within the confines of my own lane in life. But trust me, it is not an easy course to travel. The following are tips and benefits of staying in your own lane.

Work on Your Own Priorities

As hard as it is sometimes, avoid the repetitive crossing over your lane to assist someone else. As much as you want to carry the weight for others in need, it is often more beneficial to slow down and access each situation. Are you the person best qualified to intervene? Are there other available resources? How well are you managing your own responsibilities and priorities right now? Just because a need exists does not mean you are the one to meet that need. It is okay to focus on shoring up your own life and then giving to others out of abundance vs. out of anxiousness.

Ward Off Comparisons When you build confidence in your own abilities and matters that pertain to your moving forward, you are better able to deflect comparing your life to others. Staying in your own lane means you do not need to rubberneck and second-guess what other “drivers” are doing around you. The healthy boundaries around your lane grant you more freedom just to be you and not worry about what others are thinking or doing.

Filter Through Opinions It sure seems like everyone has an opinion these days about what you should think, believe, say or do. Wear this. Be this. Eat this. Vote this. Join this. The list for luring you to drift over into someone else’s lane is endless. We all have opinions and many of them are quite valid, but if we abandon the good unfolding in our own lives, we may be stuck trying to live out someone else’s ho-hum ambitions.

Tuning Out the Naysayers

Remain Unfazed by Criticism Yes, it stings when someone belittles or berates you or those you love. Some people thrive on cutting down others. “Look at her … man he doesn’t know what he’s doing … she should do it this way … if only he would listen to me!” These days, social media can fuel judgment and a critical view of others and the world around us. When you are intentional about staying in your own lane, you are practicing the value of tuning out the naysayers. Driving within your own territory helps you put on blinders to all the options and chatty comments from the bad drivers out there.

Other definitions of “stay in our own lane” include “mind your own business” and “stick with what you know and are good at.” Why is it easier to meddle in someone else’s choices than to shore up the condition of our own lives?

Road Rage Roots in LA

Back in the early 1990s when I was still living in Southern California, I was on a highway outside of the city when a crazed driver behind me didn’t think I was going fast enough. He started tailgating, flashing his lights and roaring his engine. Oncoming traffic did not allow him to pass and I had a car in front me. For more context to the incident, this was at a time when some road-rage drivers would pull out a handgun and shoot other drivers off the road. Seriously. (Check out this article on when gunplay came to freeways.)

So while this maniacal driver was pissed, I was praying. And all the while I stayed in my own lane. I held my ground and steadied on as safely as I could with this wigged-out driver barreling down on my bumper. We didn’t have cell phones back then or I would have called 9-1-1 or the state patrol. Instead, I called my Rock and Deliverer and fixed my eyes on the road right in front of me.

My exit was about a mile farther up the highway before I could escape this enraged man behind the wheel. Fortunately, he didn’t follow me off the exit or load up a pistol and aim it at me. Whew! Yet that experience still continues to teach me to guard my own priorities and not cave to others’ rude or senseless actions, comparisons, opinions or criticism.

Staying in your own lane builds confidence and a comfortable fit in your own skin. You can make wise decisions tailored to your own goals and aspirations. You can keep honed in on what matters most to you. And you’ll stay free of those who what to steer you off the best path or who want to ride your bumper.

Drive on, my friend, bend on, freely in the lane that is designated just for you.