Nudge Yourself to Success
Years ago I bought a bike to go on a cycling date. It was a bold move but cycling was something that I had done while living in Texas so it seemed like a good opportunity to start riding again — especially since it’s such a big sport in the Bay Area.
Unfortunately, all the reasons that I quit riding came back to me quickly. The ride was too far, too fast and too hard. There was nothing enjoyable about the experience. I locked the bike in the garage and sadly it stayed there for years. Eventually I got tired of looking at it and decided that it was time to either ride it or sell it.
Give yourself a Nudge
A friend expressed interest in buying my bike. Before letting it go for a song, I decided to go for a ride — no date, no plan and no expectations — just a ride. What I realize now, having read Presence by Amy Cuddy, is that this was the first nudge of many that would eventually turn me into a cyclist. A nudge is deciding to do something without having an expectation of the outcome. You simply take the first step to do whatever it is that you want to do.
The first ride didn’t start off well. I had forgotten how to shift the gears and if you’ve ever ridden in the Bay Area, you know shifting frequently is important because the terrain is so hilly. My chain fell off at the top of the first hill and somehow got wedged in the gears. I had to walk all the way back to the shop for it to be fixed.
Surprisingly I was undeterred by the setback and started out again. I crossed the Golden Gate bridge and made my way through Sausalito to the bike path. At the start of the path, I ran into a neighbor and stopped for a quick chat. He’s quite an accomplished cyclist so of course he asked how far I planned to ride. He was probably unimpressed when I told him that I had no plan. We went our separate ways but I remember feeling happy in the moment. Happy that I had run into someone that I knew and for making a new connection.
Focus on the Process
The first ride while not all that impressive from a skill or technical standpoint was a success because I rode again the following weekend. I ended up meeting a friend of a friend when I stopped to take some pictures of the bay on my way through Sausalito. She asked if I’d like to ride with her since we were both heading in the same direction. I remember being fearful of getting myself into another too far, too fast and too hard situation, but I joined her anyway. We rode and chatted the entire way.
What I understand now is that I value the quality time with people that you get on a ride more than the adrenaline rush of a heart pumping workout. Cycling has become a time for me to connect with friends, get some exercise and share an experience. My only goal of every ride is to enjoy it which means I might not ride as far, or as fast or tackle the hardest route every ride. However, with every ride I get stronger, more skilled and more confident on the bike. Focusing on enjoying the ride is what has turned me into a cyclist and turned cycling into a sport that I enjoy.
Nudges work because they focus on the process rather than one big goal but it’s more than okay to challenge yourself too. My friend and I decided to participate in a century ride this summer. It wasn’t much of a stretch goal in terms of distance but I wanted to enjoy it rather than suffer through it. So I hired a trainer to check my form, give me some pointers and develop a training plan. Every training plan includes hill repeats and/or climb days so there is an element of suffering that you need to get used to as a cyclist.
The century was a little hillier than our typical weekend rides. Admittedly I wondered “why am I doing this?” at least once and really came up with no answer. By the last rest stop, my legs were starting to burn. We finished strong despite the uphill climb to the finish line. Many people cross the finish line with a feeling of victory which you can see when they throw their arms up in a V shape. For me, I felt satisfied and happy for finishing the ride and for the most part, enjoying the experience.
When I got home, I started researching a multi-day ride that I heard was really fun to do. It’s on the list for next year. For me that’s success!