The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The realist adjusts the sails.
~ William Arthur Ward ~
I thought about it in Japan as I was diving into the amazing story of the Tendai monks and their goal setting, their meditation. My goal – as I was heading for Australia – was to cycle 1500 km in one week and aside from that arrive in Sydney as soon as possible. Testing myself was key here. I knew it was gonna hurt both body and mind, but that was the whole point. Connecting with yourself can be achieved in different ways. However, things turned out different. As I started from Cairns I was faced with obstacles. And looking back, of course I was faced with obstacles. It has been like this for years on the road. Why should it be different now?
The first 4 days I cycled about 700 km. Cycling days from 12-14 hours. It was the wind that made me go slow. These tough winds and the heat of the sun were the first wake-up call that this wasn’t going to be easy. It was the first mental test as it didn’t coincide with my expectations. How could I have underestimated the wind? Especially after cycling 3500 km with strong headwinds in Brazil 2 years earlier.
I started and ended in the dark the first days on that (crazy) road going all the way south to Brisbane. Setting up my tent at night in the long grass beside the road that could have been full with snakes. Stupid I have been. Fortunately I realised on time and got my act together on day 5. I then took the decision that the 1500 km would be impossible. It had been going through my mind for a month but I had to forget the idea. It was impossible – for me that is – to do it in one week..
Next target was Sydney. I managed to arrive here in 3 weeks starting from Cairns. Hot, long boring roads, big trucks, some crazy macho drivers and pain in the ass from the long days on the saddle. Cycling 180 km can be long when the circumstances are tough. Thing is, it’s not about the amount of kilometers, it’s about how you experience them. Ten hours a day on a bicycle, what to do with that time? What is it you tell yourself? What is it you feed your mind, thus your thoughts and emotions and how you eventually feel and cope with the circumstances? It was tough but in the end I did pretty well and I felt – and now know – that I’m getting better and better at bending the external around. Bending and focussing on what serves me. Another step closer in awareness and the power of (getting to know) the brain.
If we think nature, as in what is natural, then the whole idea of making mistakes is to learn from it. To use them as stepping stones, to adjust, to reach your goals and to get better. There’s no successful athlete, actor or businessman who didn’t fail. Failing helps.
If there’s less fear for failure, or you can accept the fear you have, then new things and new ideas will arise faster because you know failure is part of the process, part of growth. You start to build on success, not on fear. Besides, you are less sensitive for social approval, you can stay in focus. You might start seeing more possibilities and challenges. In my case that comes in handy. Cycling the world, every day is different, every day can be a challenge. You just take action. You are not implementing the negative future scenarios in your mind that won’t manifest 99% of the time anyway. It saves time and energy. My body and mind need it for creative solutions.
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE
The circumstances were not good, bad even, but I can’t blame the circumstances. Blaming circumstances is a bigger weakness than you might think. Taking responsibility for whatever situation has helped me a lot cycling this world. Even if you get 7 (!) flats in one day, you are the one cycling there. It saves a lot of negative energy, you complain less, and don’t get angry that often (except maybe at flat nr 5, 6, and 7). You practice this and you also realise you are the one responsible for your choices, the position you are in, even at the most bizarre cycling days. It creates space. It gives the feeling that I am in control and nobody else which helps accomplishing my goals. It’s not the weather, it’s not somebody else, so I’m gonna to have to do it. Can’t hide. It’s a big motivator. Looking at problems in a constructive manner has helped me a lot. Besides, you never know how things work out. There have also been flats that made me meet wonderful people, people who have enriched my journey.
Another element, a fundamental elemement, I have to point out is the focus. I set a target of 1500 km in one week, then I should have had 100% focus on this target. It’s either 1500 km in one week or cycling as fast as possible to Sydney, because these are two goals. If there would be only one than I could adjust the sails and maybe even use the obstacles in my favour. I could have cycled into a different direction and put all I had inside me to reach that goal. I couldn’t, I had something else on my mind as well. I made a mistake there, a good one to learn from. And maybe that’s why I did reach the second goal. This goal had a deep intrinsic value, it’s where my truth was heading. A valuable lesson.
Aside from all the brain, body and mind stuff, it felt good arriving in Sydney. Mission accomplished and I was rewarded with a couple of nights at a cyclist’s house. A cyclist who owned a sailing boat. We sailed the harbour of Sydney. Adjusting the sails when necessary.
I learned. Again. A tough ride with some profound feelings of gratitude. For the things that really matter in life. Pushing it, and see how far you can go within the realms of body & mind, I recommend to anybody but the most beautiful and most valuable will always be the people. Also in Australia I have met remarkable people who have helped me, who gave me food and a bed to sleep in. Who gave me the energy and confidence to keep on going and not give up. Thanks mate.