Lessons from a Bicycle

How often do we use the saying, “It’s like riding a bicycle”? It is usually used when we need to do something which we haven’t done in ages and it’s meant to portray the idea that once we have learnt something, we never forget how to do it. There is a gentle smugness that comes with this, a confidence born of experience, the evidence of which provides safe, secure feelings. This side of a lesson learnt is so easy and comfortable that we often forget how it felt on the other side, the before side, when we didn’t know how.

Not many of us remember those first attempts at riding a bicycle. We may, if conscious enough, realize the skill it takes when teaching our children to ride. Training wheels have made it easier but before training wheels… We froze with fear, fell, tumbled, wobbled, crashed, kissed the dirt, and landed in rose bushes. Physically we got cut, scraped, bruised, bumped, grazed and sometimes even broke. Emotionally we laughed with nerves, cried with pain, yelled with frustration, giggled with embarrassment and eventually crowed with delight. Throughout this process we were drawn forward by the thrill of what life would be like if we could ride that bicycle. Nothing could distract us from our mission. Our imagination kept us focused on the goal, the rush of wind in our face from our daring speed, the power of being able to drive and control this glorious machine and the freedom it symbolized. It didn’t take long to realize that if we wanted to stay on top of this sensational ride, we had to keep moving. The minute you stopped moving forwards, you fell off, the ride ended and so did the rush.

As we grow older we hang up the bicycle and forget the lessons it teaches us. We get so caught up in our fear of learning new things that we deny ourselves the dream. We see the cuts and bruises, the grazes and the breaks. We imagine the frustration, humiliation, pain and embarrassment we will feel if we fail or don’t “get it” quickly enough.  We convince ourselves that it is not worth the effort to change because we have forgotten that the other side of learning, the “I did it” side, holds the reward of the rush, the power, the control. So we stay where we are, sitting on a wall, feet dangling while we watch others on their “bicycle of life”. We envy them, what they have, how much fun they are having and we wallow in our misery. We see only their rush, not their tumbles, and we grumble that they have it so easy. We convince ourselves we can’t do it, give ourselves really good reasons why it won’t work, satisfying ourselves that it is beyond our control, so not our responsibility even to try. We stay stuck.

Habits are patterns of behaviour which keep us feeling safe. But habits also keep us living the same day over and over again. If you want a better more fulfilling life you need to do things differently. You need to learn new ways of doing things. We can only grow through change, because let’s face it, you cannot grow and stay the same, they are flip sides of the coin, like light and dark, speeding and standing still. Make each day different by doing small things differently. Walk a different route, drink from a different cup, sit in a different chair. Your quest doesn’t have to be as huge as learning to ride a bicycle. You can start with small steps, one small change every day.

Decide what it is you want and keep focused on the ride, the rush of achievement.  When you tumble or land in a rosebush, get up and keep trying. Remember that if you want to reach your goal, if you want to feel the wind in your face as you ride down new roads, you will have to learn, change, grow and always keep moving…

Chocolate or Vanilla

Imagine baking a delicious, chocolate cake. You would need cocoa and chocolate and all the other yummy things which make a cake chocolate. Now imagine that you bake a chocolate cake every week. After a while you start to get bored with chocolate cake and decide you would like a vanilla cake for a change. You gather all your delicious chocolate ingredients, mix them together and put the cake in the oven to bake. You have heard about the power of positive thinking, so while your cake bakes you focus on it being a delicious, vanilla cake. You smell the vanilla, you taste the vanilla, you see the delicate pale cake in your minds eye. Imagine your disappointment when a chocolate cake emerges from the oven. “So much for positive thinking,” you think to yourself. But people tell you to persevere, so you do, week after week, and it’s always a chocolate cake.
This is how we live our lives, always doing the same things, and expecting life to get better. You need to go back and look at how you are doing life. What are your ingredients? Make a new list of ingredients and then bravely mix a different cake. It may take some trial and error, some flops and failures, but you will get there if you keep trying. When you invent a new recipe for your cake, you will need to look back at the last attempt and see how it can be improved. Or will you get wrapped up in the misery of failure and go back to baking a chocolate cake, all the time complaining about how unlucky you are and how miserable life is when all you can bake is chocolate cake.
Failures are only bad when we ignore the opportunities they offer us to learn and improve. Positive thinking alone is not worth much when we keep doing the same things in the same way. If you want a different life, you need to do life differently. Being positive changes your perspective but you have to take action to initiate change. Here is a challenge to get you started… Choose one thing which your inner voice tells you to start doing but you don’t. Or one thing which you know you need to stop doing and don’t, you just ignore it, you put it off for another day.
Make that day today. Do it, tick it off, get it done. By doing one thing differently you will have changed the recipe of your life. Just like using vanilla in a cake instead of cocoa. Life is a really big cake with lots and lots of ingredients, but if you change it just a little every day, it will be quite different in a month or a year.
It just takes one change to break the inertia. After that it will be easier to keep moving…