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Good Mental Health is not a Driving Test

By Tony McNicoll


How many minors did you get?

How many lessons did you have?

Did you pass first time?

Drivers know these things usually: what the examiner was like, were they actually ready, how fast their heart was going. It’s all so clear.

What’s also clear is that a driving test in no way prepares you for what it’s like to actually drive.

As everyone tells you before you make your way to the test centre: “you only learn to drive once you pass your test”. And it is kind of true. For a start, many people who have passed a driving test have never since parallel parked or performed a three point turn (seven or eight points however…). Which driving lesson taught you to change lanes on the motorway? Steal a parking space at Tesco on Christmas Eve? Or take a bite from a Big Mac whilst following your sat nav round a busy roundabout? Ok, maybe that last one isn’t a skill you necessarily want to perfect or admit to.

But the test…

All drivers sit it, hopefully everyone driving on the road right now has passed it too. And I bet those that passed with only 1 or 2 minors are so glad they worked so hard and did so well. The reduced insurance premiums, the social prestige… No? No. It doesn’t matter how you pass – as long as you pass.

Driving tests aren’t like A-Levels or Highers. A better result does not indicate greater potential opportunities. As long as you can pass, you are licenced to hit the road in any vehicle you can afford and drive at any speed you desire (within the correct limits of course!). You may have come one late signal away from failing but if you can buy that Ferrari, it’s yours.

As long as it’s not a fail, it’s a pass. Black and white.

Life can be like that. Your coat either lets in the rain or it doesn’t. Your WiFi either works or it doesn’t.

Relationships aren’t like that though. The intangible quality of time spent and effort put in to interactions matters. The more you put in, the more you get out.

Those husbands who hurriedly grab some wilting petrol station flowers each wedding anniversary are proven to have fewer anniversaries in their future. That is a totally made up fact but, as it sounds like it should be true, I’m keeping it in.

Your relationship with yourself is exactly like this. Mentioning “the relationship you have with yourself” tends to bring to mind images of airy-fairy, hippy, holistic tree-hugging therapy but is often the key missing element in having a positive experience of your lifetime.

Do you help yourself?

Do you support yourself in what you do?

When you talk to yourself, are you helpful or critical?

Do you speak to yourself as you would a close friend?


Do you berate yourself?

Do you talk yourself down?

Do you treat yourself like an idiot making obvious mistakes?

Just because you’re “fine” right now doesn’t mean you’re actually “well”.

Just because you’re able to function doesn’t mean you’re thriving.

Just because you pass the daily test of getting up, completing tasks and getting ready to repeat tomorrow doesn’t necessarily mean you are being as successful in building happiness as you could be.

Passing each day just barely doesn’t offer the same opportunities as passing with only a couple of minors.

Your mental health is not a driving test. Passing well DOES mean greater opportunity. Greater opportunity to feel well and be well.

Give yourself a chance today. Catch yourself doing one thing that is breaking you down and, instead, do something that builds you up. It might be sleeping a wee bit more, eating one less treat, buckling down for five more minutes. It might be giving yourself a second chance before you call yourself an idiot.

Support your own progress and create some of those great opportunities that are waiting for you.

Your life choices are the only tests that really matter.

You might make minor mistakes, you might not feel ready, you might need more lessons than other people. So what?

Better choices to help yourself now DOES mean a bigger pay off in the future.

When it comes to your mental health, just barely passing isn’t enough.

Let’s smash it.

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