My daughter learned how to ride her tricycle last weekend.
We cheered her on as she combined pedaling with steering and balancing. And as we did, I heard myself repeating the same instruction over and over: “Don’t look at your feet, honey. Look where you want to go.”
Move your feet
When we’re learning how to do something for the first time, we naturally fixate on the details. It’s a necessary part of mastering a new skill. Lily stared at her feet to make sure she was getting that part of the equation right. Were her feet still on the pedals? Were the pedals going around?
We can also get fixated on the details when something just feels hard or unpleasant. I’ve been riding a bike for decades, but the physical effort of pushing those pedals around and around can lead to fixation on just. How. Much. Energy. It. Takes. (I’ve had similar experiences while attempting to balance budgets.)
What are you fixating on? What feels difficult right now?
Pedaling and its equivalents are critical for getting us where we want to go. But moving your feet alone won’t do it. You also have to steer.
“Where do you want to go?” I’d ask Lily when she started to veer into a wall. She’d stop, look around, and point. “Okay. How do you get there?” She’d point her front wheel, and away she went. We continued this way – pedaling, steering, stopping, assessing, starting up again – all the way to our destination.
What would happen if you looked up from your feet? What would you see? How would you adjust course?
When Lily completed her first solo ride (four city blocks to a nearby playground), she was thrilled with herself. We celebrated with a snack and some runs across the bouncy bridge. Thirty minutes after we arrived, she was exhausted. The ride home featured a lot of stops to admire the flowers and was followed by a well deserved nap.
Pedaling and steering and balancing all at once takes a lot of effort. Just as important as keeping your head up is slowing down or even stopping to take a break. Give yourself credit for the effort you’re making. Recalibrate. Have a snack.
Then look up, remember why you started pedaling in the first place, get back on your bike, and get moving.
I'm interested in what keeps us engaged in our work, the world, and each other.