Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Oh, the things you can learn from riding a bike. A short while ago, I shared seven life lessons I learned while getting back on a bicycle at the age of 48.
And the lessons just keep coming. Here are seven more.
- Failures give you knowledge.
I’ve always said that failure gets a bad rap. We wouldn’t have the light bulb if Thomas Edison had become discouraged after his first few failures. (It took him around 10,000 tries which helped him discover “how it didn’t work.”)
We get a lot of information from failure.
After I wrote the first post about learning from my bike, my next ride was a disaster. An epic fail. I was exhausted and had to walk my bike back for the last piece of the ride.
But I learned a lot.
Here’s how it went for me:
Fail: I became way too tired at the beginning of the ride because I left from my house instead of driving to the area where I usually start. There are very steep hills between my house and my starting point.
New knowledge: My body isn’t yet ready for the steep hills. I need to gradually work up to those.
Fail: I completely ran out of gas by the end of my ride.
New knowledge: I do better if I take my ride in the morning when I naturally have more energy rather than mid-day when my energy is already starting to wane.
Fail: It took my body a long time to recover from the ride. I was shaky and weak for quite awhile afterward.
New knowledge: I need to make sure my body is properly fueled by eating well before I go on my ride. Since I went in the afternoon, it had been awhile since I had eaten.
While I was pedaling away and really struggling, my inner critic started to act up.
“See? You’re not really cut out for this. You’re too weak, too old . . .”
I cut it off right there.
I knew that I wasn’t really failing. I was actually receiving a lot of new information about this epic fail of a ride.
The next time you feel as though you are failing, take a look at what you are actually learning from the experience.
A failing relationship gives you information about how to fix it or do better in the next one.
A failure at work provides you with knowledge on how to make a product better or handle office politics more adeptly.
Let epic fails be your best teacher.
- You use more muscles than you might think.
I expected my legs to be sore.
But I was surprised to find that my arms, especially my triceps, were sore, too. Holding my body up while leaning on the handle bars takes more effort than I expected.
Now I’m looking forward to not only my legs becoming more toned, but my arms, too!
This can happen in other parts of our lives when we try new experiences.
Learning to meditate might result in what you expected: an ability to focus and be mindful. But perhaps there will be unexpected benefits of increased serenity and slower anger responses.
Starting a new career might produce new “muscles” such as tenacity and creativity.
Look for the unforeseen benefits – muscles – of your next challenging experience.
- Your muscles are thanking you.
I somewhat enjoy having sore muscles.
It’s because of something my junior high basketball coach said to our team when we complained about our soreness: “It’s your muscles saying ‘Thank you.”
It can be the same when you are trying something new or going through a change in your life. You might feel emotionally or mentally “sore.”
But perhaps it is just your mind’s way of saying “Thank you for giving me all of this new information. It hurts right now, but this experience is going to make me stronger.”
- Let a hero inspire you.
I shared in my last post that it has helped me to break up the hilly parts of my ride into smaller chunks. The other thing that helps as my heart is pounding, my mouth is dry, and my legs are aching is to think of heroes who have overcome the odds to succeed.
Lately, as I’m chugging slowly and painfully up a hill in the lowest gear possible, I’ve been chanting to myself, “I’m Katniss Everdeen. I’m Katniss Everdeen,” invoking the sixteen-year-old hero from The Hunger Games.
I think of how tough Katniss was in the arena, how she kept going in spite of hunger, thirst and exhaustion.
And I keep pedaling.
Yesterday, on my epic fail ride, the only thing that came to my fatigued mind was The Little Engine That Could.
“I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. I know I can, I know I can, I KNOW I can.”
I made it up the hill.
What hero inspires you? Martin Luther King, Jr.? Eleanor Roosevelt? Burmese peace activist and leader Aung San Suu Kyi?
We can’t be our heroes, but we can let their stories buoy and lift us when the chips are down.
- Don’t be afraid to look dumb.
I was nervous when I took my bicycle in to get it tuned up and have new tires put on. The area I live in is renowned for its very serious cyclists and so there are a lot of serious bicycle shops that cater to these serious people.
I’m not that serious.
And I didn’t know how to use my bike properly. Specifically, I didn’t know how the gears worked and the proper way of shifting them. So, when I first started bicycling, the ride was very herky-jerky as I tried to figure out the shifting procedure.
I thought asking about it would be a really dumb question. And I don’t like to look dumb.
Luckily, I found a bike shop where the guys were kind and not intimidating. I screwed up my courage to ask my dumb question.
The mechanics were more than willing to patiently show me how the gears worked and what range of gears would be most appropriate for the types of rides I do.
Now my riding is clunk-free as I shift smoothly and knowledgeably between gears.
I’m glad I asked my dumb question.
Don’t be afraid of asking yours. It might make your ride smoother, too.
- Let people cheer you on.
One of the things that has been really encouraging to me in my new venture is the people who are cheering me on.
My sister, Susie, the triathlete, gives me helpful training tips and strategies. And, more importantly, when I have an epic fail, she always says, “That’s okay! I’ve had those, too, and now you know what not to do next time.”
My partner, Andrea, came home from work one evening with a mischievous grin on her face.
“Do you have a minute?” she asked, handing me a large shopping bag. Inside were new riding shorts, a neon yellow bike shirt, and padded gloves.
In that moment I felt both supported, loved, and more confident in my riding hobby.
But neither of these people would be cheering me on if I hadn’t let them in on my challenge.
Will you allow people to cheer you on during your challenges?
Sometimes we want to isolate during tough times, but the people who love you want to be your personal cheering squad.
Take a breath, swallow any pride that might be in your way, and let them.
- Stop and look at how far you’ve come.
Sometimes I get so involved in pedaling, breaking my ride down into smaller pieces, and thinking of heroes that I don’t notice something important.
I’ve come a long way.
Now when I reach the turning-around point in my ride, I stop briefly and really take in how far I rode. If I can, I look back from the top of a hill and give myself props for making it this far.
No matter how much you struggle, no matter how hard the ride of your life is, look how far you’ve come.
Even when some days are epic fails, you are still moving forward. Stop, look around, and give thanks for where you are.