Sunday 15 May 2016

Cycling, unhelpful thoughts & Mr Bean!

This is a sister post to my previous one where I described my values led action and how I'd found additional inspiration to get on my bike from my friend Dan. This post describes my unhelpful thoughts in relation to my cycling and how these thoughts have the potential to divert me from my valued activity.

In considering values led behaviour we know that there is always the potential for our attention and energy to be hi-jacked by our unhelpful thoughts. As Russ Harris puts it:
"All to often we react to our unhelpful thoughts as if they are the absolute truth, or as if we must give them our full attention"
Once I'd identified cycling as the activity in the service of my values, my mind was quick to generate a range of unhelpful thoughts which included:
  • I'll be too wobbly.
  • I'm no good at sport (This one is very deeply rooted in my past. Consider the boy who was always picked last for the football team and was called "crystaltips" by the PE teacher!)
  • What will people think?
  • I can't cycle up a slight incline never mind a proper hill.
  • I'll fail.
  • I'll fall off.
  • People will laugh at me.
On my second ride out - as I reached Brighton Pier I had to dismount to walk around a group of Spanish schoolkids. As this was my second ride I was feeling pretty cool. I was wearing a pair of old shorts and a t-shirt and pulling off a vintage velo look. I heard one of the schoolkids saying "MIra, mira Pablo - esta chico parece Mr Bean." Now Pablo's mate didn't know I spoke Spanish, I'd love to have responded with a witty retort but the truth was it did deflate me and echoed my thoughts. As I got back on my bike I thought, "F*** You Chico - I'm enjoying myself", and went on my way. I also discovered that it can help change our relationship with these thoughts by sharing them, which in my experience, we don't often do. I've had some great conversations with Manel, Ali, Melinda and Dan about my unhelpful thoughts, which frequently gave me a new perspective and invariably made me laugh. These conversations also made me realise how these thoughts showed up in other areas of my life.

ON Wednesday I was travelling to Bristol and there was time to fit in an early morning ride. When the alarm went off my mind generated the following thoughts:
  • I think it might be raining - best not to go. 
  • What if I fall off and can't go to Bristol.
I recognised these as products of my mind and thought about how useful they were to me. I knew that if I invested my energy and attention in my unhelpful thoughts I'd probably stay in bed. I knew I had a choice between using my unhelpful thoughts as a guide to my behaviour or my chosen values of fitness, fun and courage. On this occasion I chose the latter and went our for a bike ride in the mist and rain. It's important to point out, it's not always easy to take values led action, there are often difficult thoughts and emotions associated with a direction that has meaning for us. From the action I had already taken I also had the evidence of the joy and vitality I experience when I'm on my bike. Strava tells me I've cycled 234km since 16 April which makes me extremely chuffed. 

There will be further posts linking my cycling to behavioural science as my action continues! Thanks for reading, Ross


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