One of my favorite hobbies is road cycling. I like it so much that I get up at 4:30 every morning to go and put myself through pain and suffering. One of the routes we ride takes us up a hill that we affectionately call “King Kong.” It isn’t very long but it is pretty steep. You have to shift into a pretty easy gear to get to the top without killing yourself.
When I first started riding back in high school, “King Kong” was my nemesis. I could make it to the top but I always got passed by all of the other riders. Even as I got better I was consistently getting left behind by riders who I knew were not as strong as I was. Every time it was the same scenario; we would get to the base of the climb and I would go towards the front of the group but by the time we were half way up the hill I would drift to the back and then get left behind.
I remember the day when I had an epiphany and realized what I was doing to sabotage myself. I would hit the bottom of the hill in a hard gear and then power up it until I was completely tired, then shift to the next easiest gear. Before long I would get tired again and shift to the next easier gear, and so on. Essentially I was wearing myself down incrementally until I got to the point where I had nothing left. At that point, everyone else would start to pass me and I had no energy to go with them. Even the easiest gear would become almost too hard to pedal.
So the next time we road up “King Kong” I did something different. At the bottom of the hill I shifted down about 5 gears to where it felt like I was almost spinning my legs too fast. As the hill got steeper I tried to just maintain my legs spinning at a good speed. I was able to spin my way to the top of the hill faster than I ever had before. I didn’t just stay with the rest of the riders in the group, I left them behind. That day changed cycling for me and also taught me a lot about life.
Almost daily we come up against a large obstacle, trial, or project that we need to complete. The temptation is to go at it without a plan. We think if we just jump in and power through it we will overcome it and move on. But sometimes we start working through it and then it becomes longer or harder than we anticipated. So we wear ourselves down, then shift gears and go again. Little by little we lose energy and eventually give up or get bogged down because we just don’t have anything left to give. Then we give up. We have sabotaged ourselves incrementally and now we feel depressed or like we have failed.
I think there is a good way to avoid this and it is the same way I learned how to conquer “King Kong.”
Step 1: Know Your “Enemy”
You have to know what you are up against. If it is a specific trial in our life, we need to sit down and write out the facts. When written down, we realize that a lot of our problems aren’t as big as we have built them up to be in our head. Writing down the problem or task and everything we need to do to get passed it will help us focus on just the necessary goals. It removes some of the emotion and a lot of the stress.
Step 2: Set Your Goals
Once you have defined the problem, it is time to set some goals. Many large problems can be broken down into a series of tasks that can be accomplished one by one. Write down the steps that would be needed, in order, to complete the task. Then set a goal for when you would have each one done. Sometimes we will stress about doing something for a whole week and still get nothing done when we could have broken it down and completed just one small task per day and be done in 3-4 days.
Step 3: Get Into the Right Gear
With your problem broken down into smaller steps (like an easier gear) you can start spinning your way to the top. Don’t worry about the top of the mountain, just worry about the next step. If you keep checking off the small steps, one by one, you can have faith that very soon you will be at the top. You will have completed your project, overcome your obstacle, or pedaled through your trial.
Study after study has shown that 90% of the things we stress about never really happen. That means that we are walking around worrying about things that most likely will never happen. And sometimes this stress and worry can lead us into inaction. We worry so much about the difficulty of a task or trial that we just don’t even try to tackle it. And when we try to ignore it, it just grows bigger and harder in our mind.
But if we apply the 3 steps given above, we can break those problems down into manageable tasks. We can get in the right gear and overcome “King Kong”.
May you pedal with success!
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