Trying to encourage a cyclist at the Trek Dirt Series Mountain Bike camp, I revealed to her that I struggled so much with learning to mountain bike that I went to therapy.
I told the therapist, I am here to talk about how frustrated I get when I go mountain biking. The therapist thought it was her lucky day; “This is going to be easy.”
She told me, “mountain biking is a choice, if it frustrates you so much, then don’t do it”. She smiled and I imagined her rubbing her hands together, thinking, “whew, that was an easy one”.
I persisted. “I want to work on this. I don’t want to have an activity that is supposed to be fun make me hate myself.”
With that, we got to work.
I relayed the exchange to the beginner cyclist and she nodded with a deep knowing. She and I shared an overachieving personality and a tendency to beat ourselves up for being a beginner. As hard as it was on a hot day after falling off her bike onto the rocky trail, she got back on and persisted. She was not having fun yet, but she was not giving up either. I hoped that she could embrace the role of the beginner and be kind to herself, but I know from experience that is far easier said than done.
One of the greatest challenges to becoming our best selves is overcoming our limiting beliefs. Jenean Perelstein writes about this in her new book, Finding Your Lighthouse. When I started mountain biking, every time I stumbled I took that as evidence that I could not ride a bike. I was limited from the very beginning with doubt and a self defeating view of my own athletic abilities. What changed for me was giving myself the gift of being a beginner. When I began thinking of myself as a beginner who was learning to ride a bike, the same behaviors – stumbling, falling, stopping on a steep hill, became evidence that I was working hard at learning a new skill. Each time I would get back up after falling I trained myself to think, “wow, you have grit!”. I also normalized the learning process by going to mountain bike camp and surrounding myself with other beginners who were facing the same challenges.
This year as I tread into new waters professionally, I have decided to volunteer at several Trek Dirt Series Mountain Bike Camps. Each camp draws 50 women at various stages of learning. The structure allows for skill development on grass in the morning, followed by an afternoon ride to practice new skills on real trails. Through my involvement with the camp I hope to stay connected to the practice of learning and to translate those lessons into my courses on workplace communication. I will share what I learn here, so I hope you will enjoy the ride!