so this last Sunday my son Finn and I did a mountain-bike ride around the northern part of the “Sundgau” area near Mulhouse
and it reminded me of an important life-lesson I learned a few years ago on a mountain-bike trip in the Dolomites:
you see, a group of about 10 of us had gone down there for a long weekend of cycling.
Some of the guys had prepared routes, so we spent the first couple of days cycling in stunning Alpine scenery, and all was good.
But on day 3, about half of us had booked a local guide (Albrecht) to show us some good trails.
And good trails show us he did. And all was excellent.
But the most important thing that happened that day is that we improved our bike-handling-skills in ways we’d never imagined: (and all was outstanding;-)
all we did was follow Albrecht.
When Albrecht slows down, you know you need to slow down.
When Albrecht lets rip, you let it rip.
(and this is where the life-lesson really begins):
the key thing here was that we ‘let rip’ even when our brains told us to apply the brakes.
a) we had no idea what was going on around the next bend (Albrecht does know the trails, so knows when to slow down), and
b) a lot of the technical stuff was just ‘scary’. Which makes us stop. And never try.
But, simply by looking at Albrecht up front, I could see for myself that it was actually safe to ‘let rip’.
I could observe exactly what lines Albrecht was taking (all I had to do was copy them, and I was safe), I could observe how Albrecht was going around obstacles, how he was shifting his body, and so on …
… and all I had to do was copy him to stay safe.
it’s really quite funny: at one point I was waiting for one of the guys at the back, and by the time we caught up to the main group and Albrecht, they’d gone down an ‘insanely’ steep trail covered in roots and big rocks.
My brain’s instant response: “you can’t possibly go down there”.
And thus I carried my bike.
Whereas only minutes beforehand, and many minutes afterwards, I was bombing down hillsides and trails just as tricky as the one my brain had just decided was ‘too dangerous’.
So, the life-lesson in a nutshell: in all likelihood, you already have all the skills you require, the biggest obstacle to success is (most likely) your head, or – more specifically – the thing commonly called ‘the comfort zone’.
Ok, I personally think the term “comfort zone” is a bit of a mis-nomer, my view is that it’s more like a ‘safety zone’, and there’s nothing wrong with ‘safety’: noone should beat themselves up about their brain trying to keep them safe.
(the personal development community has this thing where they get you to beat yourself up about being too stuck in your comfort-zone … and you clearly ‘don’t have it’ if you can’t break out of it with willpower alone)
I find the key to expanding that safety zone is to find a way where you *experience* first-hand that you’ll be safe doing things you haven’t done before.
*Experience* (to my knowledge) is the ONLY way to get your internal safety-mechanisms and ‘self-talk’ to really ‘get’ that it’s safe, and that it can accept new rules and boundaries.
(and sure, positive visualisation and all that good NLP self-talk can (possibly) help, but it’s certainly not good enough as ‘the one and only tool’ (even when it has cool names like ‘Decision Destroyer’;-))
In the biking-scenario what helped that there was ZERO time to ‘intellectualize’ what was going on in front of me – I was following Albrecht ‘reflex-style’ – no questioning what he was doing, no weighing up the options, no calling up potential horror-scenarios… just following, copying and enjoying.
that one day of following Albrecht truly did increase my bike-handling skills and confidence in what I’m doing (and along with it ‘safety’) exponentially.
Pretty awesome investement – one I wish I’d done much sooner after starting mountainbiking.
thoughts? Share them below!