Middle lane hogging is, according to a RAC survey, the most frustrating thing for motorway drivers.

You may know that most of our motorways only have three lanes here in the UK, and the middle lane is for overtaking, not for cruising.

I have, hands up, been known to take my place in the middle lane when the roads are clear.

Why?

It feels safe. I’m not in the left slower lane, and I’m not speeding along in the right lane. The middle lane, to quote baby bear, is just right.

Until it isn’t. And then I happily whizz into the right-hand lane and pass those middle lane drivers. And I do this in every area. Sometimes, I cruise, and sometimes I speed up, but I don’t stick to the middle lane in life.

Life’s middle lane
The people who like to stay in life’s middle lane often don’t want to go too high but don’t want to remain too low either. The middle suits them.

Some people believe that middle-thinking people are level-headed and reasonable, able to see both sides of an argument and find a compromise that everyone can live with.

Others say that middle thinking can often lead to missed opportunities, wasted potential, and a significant overdose of sameness.

But maybe you like sameness? Perhaps you know that flying too close to the sun, like Icarus, is dangerous and not just a cautionary tale designed to stop high flyers from flying.

Or that staying in the middle lane stops you from failing? I’m with Erin Hanson:” “What If I fall? Oh, my darling, what if you fly?”

Ask yourself why you’re staying in the middle? Are you frightened of attracting attention?

It’s a strange thing but preschool children are all about attention; they constantly shout, ‘look at me’ as they climb a rock, race around in a cape, or just exist. But then, as these children get older, they’re told not to draw attention to themselves, not to show off.

What is life except showing off that you’re here?

Are you frightened of what people might think if you move out of your lane? Some will admire you and be on your team, and there will be some who will criticise, and that is the same whichever lane you drive in.

Staying in the middle doesn’t keep you safe.

Staying safe in the middle
Is the middle safe? If we stretch the driving analogy a little more, this is the lane where you’re surrounded by traffic.

Is that safe?

Let’s think about other middlers. How about middle children? There are reams of psychological bullshit, I mean information, about the middle child syndrome.

Yes, it’s even a syndrome.

The older child is supposed to be strong-willed, the youngest is a baby, and the middle child is in between.

Who wants to be in between?

Even if you are a middle child, you don’t have to have middle thinking. You know that you’re experiencing thought in the moment, so if you think middle thoughts, that’s the feeling you’ll experience.

Middle Management
This middle thinking is found to be a major stressor at work. Middle management is just that. They aren’t the high flyers, and they aren’t the lower rung trying to work their way to become a high flyer.

Middle management is often mocked. Think of David Brent in the office. Middle managers are called permafrost or the marzipan layer.

Studies have shown that middle managers suffer the most stress-related problems as they are at the mercy of the people above them and may not be respected by the people they manage below them.

Middle managers have to deal with top-down information and translate bottom-up communication. No wonder they’re stressed.

But you don’t have to stay in the middle.

How to get out of your lane
You might be happy to stay in the middle, and there’s no judgement here. If it suits you to stay in the middle, knock yourself out.

There’s a misconception that people want to move up, that everyone wants more. More money and more respect, but not everyone does. Not everyone wants more, more responsibility, more hours at work, and if you’re hunky-dory in the middle, no one will crowbar you out.

But if you aren’t satisfied with the middle lane, ask yourself what you’re doing there?

Are you playing safe? What’s safe about the middle when it’s riddled with stress? Katie Edwards from Liverpool’s Institute of Integrative Biology studied monkeys to study social behaviour. She found that monkeys from the middle order had the highest recorded levels of stress hormones.

If you perceive the middle as safe, ask yourself where this belief came from? Most beliefs are inherited from parents and peers, and people rarely question why they think a certain way. Hold this belief up to the light and ask yourself why you think like this?

If you want to challenge yourself to step up, don’t think about making a major move as this might hold you back. I’m not encouraging you to play small but to think in smaller chunks.

People imagine a whole scenario and get paralysed by their fear of consequences when they think about changing their status quo. If someone thinks about a career move, they might imagine interviews, studying, or different working hours and talk themselves out of starting the process so try to do just one different thing each week.

This doesn’t have to be massive action. Maybe try a new gym class that is entirely different from anything you usually do. If you’re a spinner, take a Zumba class?

The middle lane on a motorway is there for you to overtake the traffic on the left. You don’t have to rush into the right-hand lane but notice that you’ve overtaken the car in front of you and are further down the road.

Taking baby steps in a new lane can take you miles.

And, if you like driving in the middle lane, taking one new action each week can help you enjoy being in the middle as you’ll think about yourself differently.

You aren’t stuck; you’re choosing the lane you want to drive in. Stress-free and happy.