Informed Control: The Art of Alignment

“I can’t believe I have to take a driving evaluation.” Nancy could hear how upset her father was at the idea of being retested to keep his driver’s license, “I have been a licensed driver for over 50 years, and now, all of a sudden, my driving skills are being questioned?” His voice a mixture of anger, anxiety, and embarrassment.

“Dad, I’m sure this just didn’t come out of nowhere,” Nancy said, trying to stay calm and figure out why he got that letter from the DV in the first place. “Is there something new going on with your driving that would cause the DMV to be concerned?” Long pause. “Dad?”

“Okay, okay. It’s probably the two tickets I got last month along with a minor accident I had about the same time, although I still feel the accident wasn’t my fault.”

“You never mentioned any tickets or an accident,” Nancy replied, upset at hearing this after the fact. “No wonder the DMV is concerned about your driving skills.”

“Hold on; It sounds worse than it is,” he replies. “It was mostly bad luck and not bad driving.”

“Bad luck that has that includes an all or nothing driving evaluation,” she reminds him. “Are you worried about passing the test?”

“Yes and no. I think I’m a good driver, but I worry the evaluation will be so strict that it puts my driver’s license in jeopardy. Losing my license at this point in my life would be a total disaster”. 

“Look, dad, I don’t know the rules for keeping or losing your driver’s license,” she begins, “but I do know that, based on what you’ve told me so far, you don’t have enough information about the evaluation even to begin to make choices about how to protect your driver’s license. But being angry and doing nothing but hope for the best is not a good strategy.”

Her dad smiles. “I think I recall telling you that some time ago,” he replies. “And you’re right about me not having enough information. The problem with being older is that you learn first hand how rapidly things can change for the worse and it scares you. And dit makes you more prone to “emotional choices” about how you want to preserve control. Not surprising, these impulsive and quickly exaggerated choices many times prove to be shortsighted.  You forget that the best decisions are what we call “informed control,” where you calm down, reconsider the big picture, ask good questions, gather the right information and make choices aligned with your needs.”

“Where did all that come from?” Nancy asks, taken back by her father’s comments. “I’ve never heard you talk like this before.”

“From the aging in place support group, you encouraged me to joined last fall. That group has given me a new perspective on how to protect my dignity and independence. I always thought that the best way to preserve control was to take a stand and never back down. Good for the ego, bad for the results. Now I know my best choices align with what I value the most.”

“What do you mean when you say aligned with what you value the most? Nancy asks, impressed with the clarity and sincerity of dad’s comments.

“l learned,” he begins, “that being older brings with it three critical reference points that help me align my choices to have the best shot at preserving dignity and independence. They are my values, trade-offs and time horizon. So, going forward, I’m keeping an eye on what I value the most, considering the trade-offs to enhance my chances to preserve my aging in place time horizon as long as possible.”

“I love the strategy. But tell me. how does it apply to your situation with the driving evaluation?”

“Good point, because, as you saw, my first reaction was to panic. And that’s why informed control is so important for seniors to understand and utilize in volatile situations like the one I’m having with my driver’s license:  

First, it reminds us to calm down and reevaluate our situation.  Anger is not helpful and only narrows the big picture. I need to calm down and trust the process, which includes reevaluating the big picture. I also need to know more about driving evaluations for seniors, including who is authorized to give them, what does the driving evaluation involves, how the assessment is graded and is there any way to prepare for it.

Second, it reminds us of the importance and purpose of our reference points. I deeply value the independence of being able to drive. The time horizon for me is to keep my license as long as possible. To that end, I am willing to consider several trades offs, including taking a refresher course for older drivers, accept limitations on when I can drive and have more frequent retesting of my skills. Choices based on that alignment give me the best shot at preserving my driver’s license.

“Dad, this is something seniors need to know about and use.”

“Indeed,” he replies. “seniors need to know how to resist the temptation to reduce choices about control to an all or nothing framework. That’s not a true representation of the situation. There are many gradations of compromise available that offer betters odds for sustaining dignity and independence. That’s why it’s essential to remind myself to calm down, review the reference points, and find choices that offer optimal alignment.”  

Indeed.

Informed control is a protocol I created l that provides a simple yet effective strategy to help seniors assess important choices for preserving power based on optimal alignment with their values, time horizon, and trade-offs. Of course, you don’t have to be a senior to use it.

David Solie, MS, PA


Informed Control is protocol I created l that provides a simple yet effective strategy to help seniors assess important choices for preserving control based on optimal alignment with their values, time horizon and trade offs.  Of course, you don’t have to be a senior to use it…

David Solie, MS, PA

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