When I (Selena) went to work as a camp counselor after my freshman year of college at an outdoor adventure camp, we were expected to lead our campers through various activities, including rock climbing, rappelling, zip-lining, and mountain biking.
Spoiler alert: I had never done any of those things before.
Within the first 24 hours I was on-site at the camp, one of the directors took us to a steep hill made of dirt and loose rock and proudly announced that this was our mountain scooter course. For reference, this is a mountain scooter:
Think BMX bike, but in scooter form.
Before this summer, I had not ridden anything with two wheels since I was at least 12 and definitely never on anything besides pavement. So after I watched a few people ride down before me with seeming ease and thrill, I volunteered to go next before I let the peer pressure I was feeling psych me out. I remember thinking something along the lines of, “If I’m confident, how bad can this be?”
Turns out, it could be pretty bad. Twenty minutes later I was standing in a shower while my female director and camp nurse were cleaning rocks out of the giant swath of road rash on my legs and rump. Later that day when I went to meet some counselors from another part of camp for the first time, I was so bandaged that one guy shouted out at me, “Whoa! Did you get shot?!” We were not a “camp name” or “nickname” kind of camp, but I quickly became known as “Boo,” short for ‘boo-boos’ to my co-workers.
About a week later in our training we were all gathered to practice riding the mountain bike trail we were expected to take our campers on. I was terrified. I couldn’t even coast down a hill on a scooter, so how in the world was I going to be able to make it through this trail? It was through dense, wooded, and rocky terrain and I was certain that I would never be able to avoid wrecking and seriously getting hurt.
I was already scoping out the rocks and trees and ditches that I wanted to avoid when the experienced mountain biker who was leading our training told us something along these lines:
“Make sure to look where you are going. If you look at a rock, you are going to hit that rock. If you pay too much attention to the tree you are trying to avoid, you will run right into it. Your bike will go wherever you are looking, so focus on where you want the bike to go, not on where you don’t want it to go.”
And you know what? She was right. Whenever I pedaled confidently and set my focus on the path I wanted to take, I made it through alright.
As we continue to write about goals this month, I want you take some time and think about your goals, your word for the year, your intention, or whatever thing you are pursuing in this season.
Now ask yourself why you are heading in that direction. Sit with that question. Because chances are that your core motivation for that goal is either to cultivate a value in your life, or to avoid becoming something/someone you are afraid of becoming.
On the surface, that distinction may not sound like much, but I would argue that it makes all of the difference. It means the difference between staring at the rocks and trees you are trying to avoid and actually focusing on the trail you want to give meaning to your life. Whenever our motivations for something are based around a fear (fear of ‘letting yourself go,’ fear of falling behind, fear of becoming like someone you know, etc), then our attention is more focused on what we do not want to be than on who we want to become. It’s really hard to find a target when you don’t know where it is, just some of the places where it is not. Whenever you are running towards something just because you are running away from something else, you are more likely to get discouraged and even take a meandering course. It would be exhausting to go on a bike ride where your only goal was to not hit trees. It might be engaging for a while, but eventually you would just be riding around aimlessly and without a sense of purpose. It’s hard to stay motivated whenever you aren’t driven by purpose.
As the beginning of the year begins to melt into the rest of the year, I want to invite you to reexamine your goals and your values. Do your goals match the things that you say you value in your life? Are you heading in a direction with purpose, or are you only focused on the things you want to avoid? If you get stuck, make a list of your top 3 values and think of both big and little ways that you can shape your life to better reflect that value.
My husband loves mountain biking and he will say that it’s 10 times easier to successfully ride a trail whenever you fully commit to what you are doing rather than being held back by fear or uncertainty. Value-driven goals allow you move forward with purpose and with clarity, while the ones created out of fear will always wear us down. Find a trail that takes you closer to fully living out your values and ride it hard; you’ll end up in the direction you end up looking towards.
Staying focused together,
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