Earlier this year I set the goal to complete a 7-day, 500-mile bicycle ride. I was psyched as I knew accomplishing this goal was going to change my life. My life changed alright, but not because I completed the bike ride. Hell, I didn’t even make it to the start line. Here’s what happened.
The Back Story
I’ve been very goal oriented for most of my life. Just look around this blog and you’ll find multiple articles on how to set and accomplish goals. I could write a manifesto on how to achieve goals. But I’d lost my way in recent years, lost my confidence, courage, and hell, wasn’t even sure who I was anymore. I had gone from a badass corporate leader to someone who no longer had the confidence to drive in traffic or have a simple conversation with a stranger. Figuring out how to achieve my own goals had become a bit of a red herring for me
I’m not sure how it happened. All, I knew was I needed to find a way out.
Slowly, over the past year, I was finding myself. By journaling, meditating, exploring my thoughts and feelings (YUCK!), hiking with my dog, and doing things I enjoyed, I began to dig out of my hole.
As my confidence grew, I became ready to tackle a big goal — 500 miles on a bicycle over 7 days. I had no idea how I was going to do it, I just knew I needed to try.
Lest you think I was already an avid cyclist, that couldn’t be further from the truth. I did have two bicycles — two bicycles that I had been moving from place to place over the past 10 years and not riding.
My weight had been a problem for the past five years or so, (who I am kidding, more like 10 or 20 years) and while I had been doing a lot of hiking, it was flat Kansas hiking.
Truth be told, I hadn’t ridden more than 10 miles in 10 years.
So, why cycling? I remember loving it as a kid and again in my 30s. I loved the wind in my hair (I confess, no helmets on the dirt roads I ride). It was a method of fitness where I could see and feel improvement every day as a direct result of how much I was riding, where I was riding, and how much effort was being exerted.
Maybe the most appealing thing about being on a bicycle was the sense of freedom. I’m not sure there is anything that compares to flying down a hill you have just almost had a heart attack cycling to the top of.
I got busy training right away. The first ride was 5 miles in the cold (February in the Midwest) and I thought I’d die. The Kansas winds are much colder and stronger on a bike than on a hike. Yet, I smiled at the end of each training session because I knew I could not only do it again, but I could also add a mile, or two, or ten.
If you want to learn more about my training for some reason, check out this article.
The gym is a place I typically dread. It’s just so full of “gym people.” I have nothing against gym people, per se except I don’t understand why they love the gym so much. The outdoors is where I prefer to get my exercise so the gym has always felt out of place for me, sterile and uninviting. This changed with my bike training. With my new outlook, I saw the gym as a tool, another way to increase the strength in my legs and arms so I could haul myself up those hills. While I loved my adjustable dumbbells and kettlebell, I needed a way to gain more power in my legs.
You can find the dumbells, kettlebell, as well as all the health products I recommend on my Amazon StoreFront Health & Wellness Idea List.
Each week I rode a little farther or challenged myself by taking a different route.
Hills I had previously looked up at (for weeks in many cases) and said “Not today” became adversaries I couldn’t wait to overpower. I planned entire training days to just ride hills where previously I had done everything possible to find flat roads to ride.
Damn, it felt so good!
“Whose my bitch?! You’re my bitch!” I professed to the hills as I powered myself up them in the heat.
Fortunately for everyone involved, they didn’t talk back. But they rewarded me with that heavenly feeling of freedom as I flew down them.
I remember this one hill I kept looking at and thinking I’ll never make it to the top. The first time I made it to the top I thought I’d have a heart attack. I’m not exaggerating, I was seriously looking around to find houses I could go to if I couldn’t get my breathing and heart rate under control. I consciously wondered if I’d die on the side of the road in the middle of the day.
Turns out, that’s just what it feels like when you really push yourself physically. It had been so long since I’d done that, I’d forgotten what it felt like.
I loved the training. Couldn’t wait to achieve more than I had the previous day. Even when I could barely walk from being in the saddle for too long, I still felt accomplished.
How Small Accomplishments Result in Exponential Progress
With each accomplishment on the bike, my confidence grew.
As my confidence grew, I attempted bigger things both on and off the bike.
I found myself making decisions where I was previously a bit paralyzed.
And then I found myself taking actions I didn’t previously have the confidence to take.
And before I knew it, all this confidence I was gaining reminded me of who I was at the core and highlighted the fact that I had not been living for the past few years — I’d been merely existing.
How Training For a Bike Ride Changed My Life
It was almost as if a switch turned on in me. Once I’d made up my mind to achieve this goal, there was a domino effect.
I’d like to say I just woke up one day and “found myself.” The truth is, I’d spent three years journaling and trying to unpack all the past shit that was holding me back.
It was the bike training that really made a difference. In a very short amount of time, maybe three months, I’d completely transformed.
Sure, I’d lost a little weight but not as much as I wanted. That wasn’t the transformation.
I’d gained way more physical stamina and strength. But that wasn’t the transformation either.
The transformation was in my head, it was all about my mindset.
This is ironic.
If you check out my blog, you’ll see I’ve been reading, writing, and proselytizing on the value of a positive mindset for the past 30 years.
Yet, I had lost faith in myself and my own abilities.
The bike training reminded me of my own capabilities, strength, and character, and it revealed the part of myself I had somehow lost.
Before I knew it, something switched in me.
It became evident the time had come to start living again, full-out living. It was time to join the human race and realize my own potential.
And my current location was not conducive to living the life I wanted to live (more on that in another article).
When the Universe speaks, I do my best to listen.
So, I got the house ready to sell, started getting rid of things, painted rooms, fixed things, and started meditating daily on selling the house for top dollar. The day after I finally met with a realtor to explore the idea of selling my home, a lady stopped in my driveway while I was playing with my dog and offered me top dollar for the house if I agreed not to list it. I didn’t know this woman but evidently, neighbors had been paying attention to my downsizing efforts and word had gotten out that I might be moving.
The effortless sale of the house reinforced my confidence to move on with life and begin to live again. I felt powerful beyond measure — more powerful than I’d felt in over 20 years. It was the most amazing experience, like having a superpower!
The sale of the house naturally interfered with training and the logistics regarding the 500-mile bike ride. I was now moving across the country, had to find a place to live, downsize more, and make time to say goodbye to friends and family. Due to the closing date of the house, I would already be moved by the time of the bike ride and would need to drive some 1500 miles to make it work.
“But what about the goal?” the driven side of me screamed.
How to Know When the Goal Is Not the Goal
I had a lot of questions from others about my bike riding goal. And I struggled with my own feelings about bailing on “the goal” when I’d worked so hard on it.
I felt pressure from myself and others.
“But what about the bike ride?! Are you not going to do it?”
It seems others were more invested in my ride than even I was. And there was a huge lump in my stomach at the prospect of vocalizing I was abandoning the goal.
Don’t get me wrong, I really wanted to do the ride. But more importantly, I was attached to accomplishing the goal.
My new approach to living allowed me to step back and look more holistically at the entire situation.
I signed up for the bike ride because I knew I needed to do something big to change my life. While baby steps in the direction of my dreams were helping, it was time to leap.
I thought the ride itself would change my life.
Turns out, it wasn’t about the ride. The training for the ride is what changed my life.
The training is what gave me the confidence and courage to move across the country to a place where I know nobody and don’t have an income. And the training gave me the strength to say goodbye to people I love for something completely unknown and foreign to me.
The goal wasn’t the bike ride, and the leap had nothing to do with a bicycle. It was gaining the confidence and courage to live a life worth living.
5 Lessons Learned Regarding Goals
I learned more life lessons with this experience than I can begin to convey in one blog post. Since the topic is about goal setting, let’s focus on how this experience might be able to help you with setting goals . . . and being okay with not accomplishing them.
- Be flexible. Life happens and sometimes goals need to change as a result.
- Don’t let peer pressure force you into something that no longer suits your long-term vision.
- Weed out all the noise (fear of failure, judgment, etc.) and listen to the Universe. Adapt as needed.
- It’s about the journey, not the destination.
- Be clear on your purpose for setting the goal. There’s more than one way to reach a destination.