It was day four of a six-day, 2514.9km road trip as a pillion on a Kawasaki Versus 1000 Adventure Tourer, behind my partner, Bruce, with a stop to see my mum along the way.
We’d travelled through varying weather conditions – from snow and rain to warm spring sunshine. Pink and grey galahs peeked out from their nests in a hollow tree and sulphur-crested cockatoos screeched as they flew. Brumbies (Australian wild horses) surprised us in the high country and emus stalked through the plains grasses. Magpies kamikaze-dived at the bike while crows cawed at us from their carrion dinners.
But this day, I was in no mood to notice what was going on around me. I was having trouble just staying in place on the bike.
Gusty winds blustered in from all sides and I hunched my shoulders and hunkered down behind Bruce, hoping to avoid as much of the wind as I could. But there was no escaping it. My head bobbled when gusts of wind caught under my chin and my shoulders ached from bracing myself against a sudden head wind. The weather forecast was for wind wherever we went that day so all I was trying to do was endure the ride, get through the day, and hope that tomorrow would be more settled.
And then it hit me. Not a sudden shift in wind direction but a sudden shift in mindset.
I recalled the three pillars of my speaking and coaching business – own the past, embrace the present, create the future. In this challenging situation I had forgotten the second principal – not endure the present but embrace it! In that moment, I decided to embrace the present I was experiencing, as difficult as that was.
So, I sat up straight, squared my shoulders and looked straight ahead. And as I did so, I reflected on how those three actions can apply to other situations than bike riding in strong wind.
Sit up straight – any difficult or challenging event or life circumstance can be much better dealt with if I have a good posture. On the back of a bike in strong wind, this means having a strong physical posture. But in other situations, that may mean having the right posture of mind or attitude. Rather than hunkering down and hoping that things will blow over, changing posture or mindset can give us confidence to face the challenges, even if we can’t change the circumstances.
Square my shoulders – being hunched over is a defeatist position. The head is lowered and the shoulders are rounded. But squaring the shoulders, both literally and figuratively, communicates an intention to face the challenges head on. We can choose to be defeated long before we are actually conquered or we can choose to succeed in the face of often overwhelming odds. The choice is ours.
Look straight ahead – I have often reflected that I can face anything if I know what it is. And I know what I am facing if I am looking at it squarely. Having a bowed head, whether against the wind or against life, can seem like an attractive option – if I don’t look at it perhaps it will go away! But ignoring a situation does not remove the difficulty – it will still be there the next time we look up. However, challenges can seem smaller when we actually look at them, inspect them, and pull them apart into their component pieces.
Sit up, square off, look straight – good ideas for both life and bike riding.