Life Lessons from Last Night’s Bike Ride, Part 2

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In a recent blog post, I explained my struggle (as a newer cyclist) to climb a huge (in my mind) hill. Long story short, I made it up the hill after much angst and drama. In the end, I was thankful I did it and gained some insights along the way.

Now, it’s time for an update. After talking about trying new things and getting back on that hill again, I put it off for three and a half weeks! The good news: I significantly improved my time and definitely decreased the drama. It got me thinking, how was this time different? Why was it different?

Practice! Practice! Practice!

The first time I climbed the hill, it did not go well. I was certainly not mentally or physically prepared for it. Since my first visit to this hill, I had been spending more time on my bike and trying lots of different trails and roads. I have been pretty dedicated, as I was recently inspired by the book Triggers, by Marshall Goldsmith. In his book, he proposes a method of asking yourself daily (or hourly) questions, as a way of triggering extraordinary effort to change behaviors. Goldsmith suggests adding the term “Did I do my best” to do whatever it is that you are attempting to focus on. For example, I’ve been asking myself every day: “Did I do my best to exercise today?” Goldsmith suggests that it is more powerful than just asking yourself “Did I exercise today?” When I add the “did I do my best” to the question, it changes the thought process from one about my performance (did I complete it?) into one about how much I tried (how much effort did I put into it?). Asking myself this question daily has resulted in increased exercise over the past five weeks and significant improvement that second time I climbed the big hill. The effort I put into practicing made all the difference. Simply stated:

“If we make the effort, we will get better. If we don’t, we won’t.” Marshall Goldsmith

The Lesson: The only way to get better is to practice – and to walk through the fire of experience. If you do your best, you will get better. What is one thing you want to improve upon? Are you doing your “best” to improve it?

It is Always Easier the Second Time.

Even though I had climbed the hill once before and knew what was ahead of me, I wasn’t necessarily excited to go back and do the climb again (hence the three and a half weeks later!). However, as I approached the hill this second time, I knew what to expect because I had seen the terrain before. I knew when to push it to gain momentum for the next uphill climb, and I knew when it was okay to back off a bit. I took a break, but I knew when it was the best time to take the break.

My confidence grew because I handled the situation a bit better – with a little more grace. It made me realize that we have to almost expect to fumble though a situation the first time just to make it to the second try. It seems that a part of the initial stress of doing something new is that we are SO afraid of failure. We just need to remember that failure is part of the path. We have to walk through the ugly part – the fire – the failure. There is no way around it.

The Lesson: Realize the first time you try something, it won’t be perfect – but know it will get a bit easier the second time. What didn’t go well for you that you need to try again? It may be easier than you think to go do it the second time.

 What is the Story in your Head?

Throughout yoga class (especially during the hardest parts), my teacher always says, “What is your intention?” In other words, “What are you thinking about?” In the book Cultivate. The Power of Winning Relationships, Morag Barrett explains how we all have these moments on the personal “trash talk roller coaster.” Here is my version, as I headed up the big hill on my bike the first time: 1. Riding my bike is fun! 2. This is harder than I thought. 3. [FREAKING OUT.] 4. I can’t make it. 5. Why did I bother trying? 6. Why can’t I ride as fast as the jogger who is passing me on the hill? 7. I actually made it! Riding my bike is fun!

The second time I went up the hill, I did a much better job of managing the self-talk, and the entire experience was less stressful and dramatic. The point is, we can tell ourselves a lot of stories about what is going on, but it doesn’t really matter. The less attached we can be to the “story,” the more we can just do the thing we want to do – and honestly, it’s a lot more fun!

The Lesson: Be aware of your self-talk. How much harder is it to do something when you are telling yourself you can’t do it? Recognize your “monkey mind” for what it is, and realize it will pass. What unnecessary stress are you creating?

Throughout this process, my key learning has been that doing new things is hard for everyone. We sometimes think that people have it all together, and that “it” (whatever it is) is easy for them. However, we do not see the work they have already put in to get better – the practice. There is no easy path; but when we begin to master a new skill or behavior, it is worth it!