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Right Turn Only

By: Beth Gillem
| July 22, 2021 |

This week I was waiting to make a left-hand turn on a divided highway and in front of me was a UPS truck. As the truck made a right turn on the highway, it reminded me of a story my dad shared with me years ago. 

Right Turns

The United Parcel Service (UPS) has been delivering packages since 1907. In the 1970s, they began instituting a system dubbed “loop dispatch” that avoided all unnecessary left-hand turns. In other words, they turned right whenever possible. At first, drivers thought the right-turn-only routes only added time to their day. After all, it meant going around the block sometimes…but they soon realized that not only did it save them time with deliveries but also saved gas and lessened fuel emissions!

Couple this with the fact that 22% of all crashes involve a left-hand turn as a “critical pre-crash event” (left-hand turns are stressful!) and the drivers embraced the new routes! They continue the practice of avoiding unnecessary left-hand turns to this day and have even developed their own guidance system to find the most efficient “right turn” routes!

Which Route Are You Taking?

As I drove along thinking of this illustration, I could not help but connect it to life right now. Which route are you trying to take right now? Are you trying to reach your destination the most direct way no matter how stressful or dangerous the turns may be? How many times do we sit at the crossroads, studying traffic, trying to decide when it is safe to move, idling, wasting time, and wasting energy?

We stress ourselves looking both directions over and over again trying to make the perfect move. We are in a hurry and turning left is the fastest route to get where we need to be…what if we took a breath and turned right instead? What if we embraced the journey, albeit a longer route, but it ultimately still gets us to our destination?

This past year and a half or more have been incredibly stressful for all of us. I have seen marriages dissolve, friendships disappear, countless heartbreaks happen, paychecks disappear, businesses collapse, so many sick, and been notified of way too many funerals. Life is short. Life is precious. Sometimes we need to take a step back, analyze our route, and make sure we are appreciating all that is around us. Sometimes we need to take a right turn only approach to reset. 

Right Turn Only Attitude

What does it look like to have a right-turn-only attitude? Well, it is going to look different for everyone, but here is what it looks like to me. I am intentional with my day, my time, and my life. I am not putting my goals and decisions on hold, but neither am I going to stall and overthink what I need to do. I will intentionally cherish the time I have with friends, family, and new experiences. In other words, I am going to enjoy the view along the journey. No more rushing or stressing about things that ultimately don’t matter. 

This brings me to my next question. What is it that really matters? What matters to you? Having a right-turn-only attitude does not mean you abandon your dreams and goals for a simpler (or lazier) way. What matters to you in this season of life? For me, it matters that my children feel loved and safe, that my husband feels cherished, that my job is done well, that my home is a safe haven, that my extended family and I stay close, that my friends know that I care and that I don’t look back on this season of life wishing I had loved harder. 

Practical Application

Once you have determined what really matters to you in this season of life, you can determine how you can achieve those things. Here are some examples from my life now. 

How do I make sure my children feel loved and safe? There are a lot of ways but the important thing is that I intentionally do whatever it is. For the past several months, every Tuesday has been ice cream day for me and the kids. Did I have other things I needed to do? Yes. Was it worth leaving those things a while to make this tradition happen with my kids? Absolutely. 

How do I make sure my husband feels cherished? He’s has been working really hard on our backyard after he gets home from working hard at his job. I have made a point to tell him how good it looks and what a great job he did. Yes, it does look nice, but I have to be intentional about telling him those things. I make sure to use words to let him know I appreciate him and try to cook him his favorite things to eat on the days he works extra hard. 

How do I make sure my home is a safe haven? I could easily get very crazy about keeping a tidy home. I am sure you get it, but the housework is never complete. Instead of letting myself get upset about the never-ending workload, I have minimized and made sure that my family is comfortable here. Dust bunnies on the baseboard? Yep…Family game night with lots of laughter? Yes, please. I do what needs to be done but refuse to be overwhelmed. Safe havens don’t have to be spotless. 

For all of these goals and others, I did not dive into, I have chosen to apply the words of Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King Jr, Emily P. Freeman, and most recently Anna from Frozen II, “Do the next right thing.”  That’s it. So simple. Just do the next right thing in front of you. If you are a person of faith, I love Emily P. Freeman’s addition to this. She says “Do the next right thing with your friend Jesus.” What would God lead you to do as your next right thing? I bet it has something to do with taking a right-hand turn and enjoying the journey around you. 

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