When our company did a promotional video for a bicycle company we traded services for mountain bikes. “Wouldn’t it be fun to take our sons on a biking adventure?!” I suggested, having never been on a trail with a bike before. My business partner had his own flash of brilliance, “Let’s drive to the top of a mountain, find a trail and just ride downhill.” How hard could that be?
The first time I rode off the side of the mountain everyone in our party of seven just waited quietly on the trail ahead, trying not to embarrass me further. The second time when I disappeared into the bushes upside down, the kids of the party climbed down and dragged my bike back up to the trail for me. The third time when I kissed the rocks face first, I was so far behind, I don’t think anyone noticed.
Sweaty and bloody but not yet broken in spirit or bone, I clawed my way back up to the trail. Dave, our friend and guide, was waiting. A true, soft spoken, gentleman, Dave can literally ride over a Volkswagen without taking his feet from the pedals. He straightened out my handlebars, gave me some of his water then put his bike ahead of mine on the trail. “Follow me,” he said. I looked down at the 6 inch wide sliver of bike trail that sliced across the steep rock face. Fall right, you bleed. Fall left, you die. As we pushed off, Dave uttered one of life’s great secrets. Without even turning around he said, “Don’t look where you don’t want to go.”
The clarity of that advice hit me so hard I almost fell off my bike. That is so true. If I started chanting, “I don’t want to fall down this cliff. I don’t want to fall down this cliff,” I’m toast. Because that is exactly where I will end up, down the cliff. Where I focus my energy is where I end up.
There have been far too many times in my life in which I have done just that. I’ve wasted precious chunks of my finite time on earth fixating on what I did not want to do. “I don’t want to work here.” “I don’t want to live like this.” “I don’t want to stay in this kind of marriage.” All of those statements may sound like I wanted to change my life, but all they truly reveal is that I wanted to express what I did not want.
Don’t look where you don’t want to go, because that is where you will end up. Instead,“Where do I want to work? How do I want to live? What kind of marriage do I want?” To find specific answers to those questions and then move toward them, takes real work.
Here’s the simple quiz I give myself to measure whether or not I really want something in my life.
1. How much time do I spend every day working toward what I want?
2. How much free time do I have every day?
Does the answer to 1. equal at least half of 2.? If not, I am just fooling myself and I need to stop whining about what I really want. I don’t really want it or I don’t want to do the work, it’s the same thing. On the other hand, if I focus on where I do want to go, even if it’s hard work, I start enjoying the ride so much more.
I got off the mountain alive by chanting, “I want to stay in the middle of this trail. I want to follow my wonderful friend, Dave.” Honestly? I did not fall again…..on that trip.