"One of the hardest things you can do is conquer your fears, but if you have a goal, then it's your job to open up and let it be real no matter how scary it seems."
You motorcycle riders make it look SO easy! Riding carefree down the road, wind whistling around you... the ultimate picture of freedom and excitement.
It's not that easy though. There are many challenges (aka: fears) to overcome. There's the balance challenge - starting and stopping smoothly (meaning, confidently and gracefully!). The throttle challenge - trying to keep a loose grip AND go a consistent speed that YOU want to go. The death grip challenge - trying to remain calm and not fall prey to the panic instinct of gripping tightly and pulling toward you.
(For you readers who are "motorcycle knowledge challenged," the throttle is on the right side of the handle bars. Turning it toward you in a death grip panic is the equivilant of driving a car and someone pulls out in front of you and you mistakenly step on the gas instead of the break!)
And then there's the gear shift challenge - I know, in theory it's just like shifting gears in a car. But there's a whole different set of muscles involved which brings with it a whole different thought process.
Aware of the starting/stopping balance challenge before getting on the motorcycle, I recruited my husband to be my "training wheels." He sat behind me in the passenger seat (he's a foot taller than me) so he could keep the bike up while I concentrated on starting and stopping.
What I did not expect was the amount of fear that showed up! The balancing act of letting go of the clutch while GENTLY turning the throttle is a whole trick in itself. (The clutch is a lever on the left side of the handle bar. Squeezing it toward the handle bar is the equivilant of pushing the clutch to the floor in a car.) The first try was a surprise to say the least. The real fear showed up on the second try!
Even with "training wheels" in place, there was still an element of letting go and trust. Letting go of the fear that kept me in "ready-set" mode so long that after an hour the battery died. Also a trust factor - trust in myself, knowing that I could do this; and trust in God and the "process of life" if you will, trusting that I wasn't given this motorcycle only to kill myself within the first hour of riding it.
(Of course, it didn't help that the first person I told that I was getting a motorcycle was a girl friend then said to me, "Oh wow! I was thinking about getting one too until a man's wife down the street from me bought one for his wife and she killed herself on it the first day.... I didn't bother telling anyone else after that!)
Within the first hour, I started getting the hang of the throttle challenge and could take off fairly smoothly and could even stay at a consistant speed of 10-15 miles an hour as I rode around the house on our three acre property. Got lots of practice making large right circles. Turning left thought is still scary.
The surprising thing was how short lived those "wins" were. After taking a short break, I got back on the bike to go to the next level, starting and stopping without training wheels. After popping the clutch a few times and being frozen in "ready-set" mode I realized that there was a lot more fear involved than I'd expected. And that before going on, I would have to work on those fears.
"When you overcome the fear of death, you overcome all fear."
- Matt Benson, b.1991
I worked on my fear the next morning using a meridian based energy shifting technique called EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique). It's a great process for eliminating fears, anxieties, and limiting beliefs that effect our personal energy systems in negative ways. (You can find out more about it here or at my friend and colleague's site.
By late afternoon I was ready for another motocycle session. That's when the real adventure began!
My game plan this time was to keep my training wheels in place while I practiced starting and stopping WITH the foot motions. The day before I'd done the starting and stopping routine with both feet on the foot pegs. (The foot motions include holding up the bike with your left foot on the ground while the right foot is on the foot peg. As the bike begins to move forward, you LET GO of the ground and put that foot on its foot peg. Stopping is basically the reverse.)
Letting go is hard. It's scary. As I talked about before, you have to trust. And you have to have courage.
So I mustered up my courage, took a deep breath and took off....
Well.... unfortunately, overnight I'd forgotten the sensitivity of the throttle, and my take off left my husband - my training wheels - in the dust!
I panicked, and with a choice between the ditch or a left curve (remember, I was only experienced in right curves up to this point), I discovered that I COULD drop the bike without hurting myself. (For you non-motorcyclists, that means I fell - or at least the bike fell, I remained standing.)
Dropping the bike was one of those back there in my mind fears I hadn't voiced yet. So I took care of that fear plus the fear of throwing someone else off the bike and throwing myself off the bike within the first five minutes. Luckily, I'm practicing in the grass and not on the pavement! The next adventure was not quite so lucky.
Everybody got back on the bike and I did another successful practice start and stop. Then.... for some reason, I decided that I would go around the tree in our side yard and come back the other way instead of going through the opened gate and continuing the left circle through the pasture.
Well, about 6-8 yards before the gate I realized that this turn was going to be much more sharp than I'd expected. At this point I was headed straight for the gate post. I had a choice between the barbed-wire fence, the wooden post, or the opened gate.
I chose the opened gate instinctively, but forgot to inform my muscles and my brain. The "good" thing is that I don't have to worry with the shifting gears challenge for awhile since the whole gear thing will have to be replaced. I also got the "body-slam" lesson out of the way as I hit the fence post. (Luckily the gear shift lever took hit first and took away some of the impact!) I also discovered that I could manipulate a panic situation and survive a crash.
So what have I learned?
- Practicing - going through the motions - helps to alieviate the fear by building confidence
- Feeling the fear and doing it anyway is the only way to move forward
- Moving forward means letting go and trusting
- The instinct to hold on tightly and pull toward yourself when things seem out of control is not the best choice
- Training wheels are much like emotional "baggage" - they weigh you down and make life harder
- Crash and burns are going to happen and they provide immediate feedback for what things need to be changed or modified
- I can handle tense situations
- Like my Dad always said, I CAN do anything I put my mind to!
Go Deeper, Reach Higher
"Fear is the energy to do your best in a new situation."
- John-Roger & Peter McWilliams, Do It! Let's Get Off Our Buts
As children, our parents many times teach us the "fear factor" as a way of keeping us safe:
"Don't run out in the street, you might get run over."
"Don't touch the hot stove, you'll get burned."
But they forget to tell us as we leave home at 18 that "fear" does not necessarily mean "don't do it."
As adults, with dreams and goals and trying to find fulfillment in life, fear often holds us back from following through with that great idea, asking for a raise, changing to a more satisfying job or career, getting out of a deadend relationships, making those sales calls, following up with a new lead, or moving forward in a variety of ways. Fear robs us of the fulfillment, success, and happiness we all want and deserve.
What are you afraid of?
Is it a something? Or is it fear of feeling another emotion like guilt, unworthiness, hurt feelings, or anger?
Or is it simply that you've stepped out of your "comfort zone" and are in a new situation?
"You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror: I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do."
- Eleanor Roosevelt
The next time you feel fear come up, take a moment to look deeper into it. What's behind the fear? Where did it originate? How might it be useful?
A great "fear busting" tool is to dialogue with it. Start up a conversation with it and ASK it why it's there and what is has to teach you.
This powerful journaling technique engages your intuition and allows you to look beyond the outer layer of the feeling. You act as the "scribe" writing down both parts of the conversation and allow your intuition flow.
Try this out and let me know how it goes! I'd love to hear back from you. Post your comments.