Learning to drive can be a daunting experience with a whole new skill set to learn. Here are some top tips to keep you motivated and ensure your driving confidence remains high, despite any minor setbacks that you experience in lessons.
1. Reflect on your success in driving lessons
Your past experiences of success (and mistakes) in driving lessons influence how confident you feel in your driving ability. We tend to remember the negatives and forget the positives, so make a conscious effort to balance this out. After each drive, take some time to jot down what went well. These can be tiny things such as a smooth gear change, or big successes such as negotiating a junction or roundabout you dislike. Try to replay those successes in your mind and remember what you did and how it felt to boost your confidence.
2. Set goals for each driving lesson
You will no doubt be familiar with your driving instructor asking you what you would like to achieve from each driving lesson – make sure you take some time to think about your goals and how your instructor can help you. Many instructors use a reflective log; the aim is that after each lesson you reflect on what went well, and what you would like to improve on next time. Before each lesson, check your reflective log and ask yourself:
– what would you like to practise in your next lesson?
– what will an improvement look like/feel like?
– how will you know you’ve achieved this goal?
– what can you do before your lesson to prepare?
– what do you need to know from your instructor that might help?
If you set small goals with your instructor for every lesson and then replay those successes (see suggestion 1), you will progress through your lessons confidently at a pace that is right for you.
3. Challenge your negative thoughts
If you are struggling with driving nerves or confidence, make a note of the things that you are saying to yourself. Are you your biggest cheerleader or loudest critic? If you are self-critical, keep a thought log of the words, phrases and tone that you use in your thoughts and see if you can identify any patterns in unhelpful thinking styles or limiting beliefs. If you are regularly telling yourself; I don’t, I can’t, I mustn’t, I am not, Others will or something similar then you may be undermining your confidence. Start to challenge any negative patterns by asking yourself, is it a thought, or is it a fact? How do you know? Try to add a balancing statement to any negative thoughts, for example, adding, “I’m still learning”, “I’m improving every lesson”, “I’m doing the best I can”.
4. Improve your understanding of road safety
Being a safe and confident driver is about the skills needed to drive a car, but also an understanding of road safety and other road users. Your theory test is designed to ensure you understand what you and other road users should do (and why) in different driving situations. If you are not feeling confident in driving lessons, ask yourself which aspects, in particular, make you feel nervous. Do you have any gaps in your driving understanding and knowledge? If so, ask your instructor questions about it, and refer back to your theory test training and highway code. We recommend The Official DVSA Guide to Driving: The Essential Skills as a great resource to help.
5. Learn practical techniques to calm driving nerves and anxiety
It is entirely normal and natural to feel a certain amount of nervousness when learning new skills and learning to drive falls in that category. You are not alone, and feeling a small level of nerves gives you the advantage of improving your lesson by being fully focused and paying attention to what you are doing. However, high levels of nerves can have a negative impact, creating a fight or flight stress response, resulting in jerky movements and poor decisions. The good news is that there are many stress management techniques such as breathing exercises, relaxation, mindfulness, coaching, hypnotherapy and more that can help you learn how to calm your driving nerves to keep them at manageable levels. There is no one size fits all technique for everybody so if you would like to find out more about which methods might be suitable for you visit the Confident Drivers website which has articles, advice and free tools to help.
Tracey Field is the co-founder of Confident Drivers. This website provides online resources to help nervous drivers transform the way they feel about driving through stress management techniques and courses.