A few years ago, I rode a mountain bike for the first time. It was scary, exhilarating and I wanted more. But learning a new sport can be tough. It takes practice and commitment. Sometimes it just plain hurts. All the blood, sweat and tears (literally) were worth it for me, though, because few things in life have ever made me feel more fulfilled and connected than riding on a trail.
Looking back, I can see the lessons I learned along the way not only helped me become a better mountain biker, but also helped me live a better life.
These four powerful lessons can be applied to anything in life that you truly desire, even if it seems insurmountable.
1. Trust your equipment.
Once, at a mountain biking clinic, the instructor demonstrated how little effort was needed for a bike to roll over a log. "The bike is perfectly designed for the trails," she said. The tires can crush through pine cones. The front and rear shocks absorb the rocky ride. It gave me peace of mind knowing I could trust my bike to get me to the top of the mountain and back down again.
Life is a lot like mountain biking. You can breathe easier if you trust that everything you need for the journey is within you. Whatever "trail" you're on, you have tools like experience, intuition and courage at your fingertips to help you get where you want to go. Use them!
2. Honor where you are.
In the beginning, I tried to keep up with my boyfriend — someone who's been mountain biking for 20 years — and found myself constantly frustrated. In fact, the enjoyment level was so low I thought about quitting. "I can't ride like he does so I guess I'm not a mountain biker," I thought.
Ever had thoughts like that?
In life, we can easily get caught up in the comparison game, which can only bring us down. Or we push too hard trying to keep up with others and find ourselves burned out.
It's great to look to the experts for inspiration, but honor where you are right now. Then challenge yourself a bit more each day to work toward your goals. Only you know what that means for you. If you approach life this way, then you can enjoy the journey, challenges and all. Isn't that point of life after all, to enjoy it?!
3. Look forward to where you want to go.
If you've ever been on a mountain bike, or any bike for that matter, you know that the moment you look down, you lose your balance and fall right over.
Each time I came to a sharp turn on a trail, I'd get scared, tense up and look down at my front tire as if I could will it to turn with my eyes. And each time, the same thing happened: I would lose my balance and fall, the exact thing I was afraid of. But if I looked ahead and focused on where I wanted to the bike to go, it seemed to steer itself right where I was looking. Genius!
In life, we can let fear paralyze us. We become consumed with "what ifs" and thoughts of worst-case scenarios, often losing our way. The good news is that what works in mountain biking works in life, too!
Focus on where you want to go. Place your attention on your desired outcome and the path will appear, leading you to the top of the mountain.
4. Fall with grace.
Make no mistake, you will fall. It's part of life and it's part of mountain biking. How we choose to handle the fall is what makes the biggest difference.
If I fall on a trail, I can't throw my hands up and say, "I quit." No one is going to beam me up to the top of the mountain or back to my car. I have no choice but to get up and keep riding. It's fascinating how much the lack of a choice to quit has taught me about resilience.
When you find yourself facing misfortune, try pretending you're on a mountain bike trail. Stand up, brush yourself off and get back on that bike! Act as if you don't have a choice to quit and you will be rewarded.
Whenever I set a new goal in life, be it a health and fitness or a business goal, I think about it like it's a mountain bike ride. I remind myself of these four lessons and know that it's going to be a beautiful, challenging journey, but the view from the top will be outstanding.
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