I love my job, which is a good thing. However sometimes it gets in the way of me doing some of the other things that I really enjoy, like mountain biking and hillwalking.
This year has been different though because of two things that are useful for us all to think about as we look to get more of what we want in to our lives. The first is about setting actual goals to aim towards and the second is about the people you have to accompany you en route.
In January a casual conversation about the 10 Under the Ben bike race turned into a team application. We had very little idea of what to expect, never having done anything similar. A few of my friends in the outdoor industry had done it and so I assumed that I could at least manage to complete the race, even if I wasn’t challenging for a podium place. The great thing was that it set a time-bound goal on the calendar – on 29th April we would compete at the Nevis Range. For us, novices as we were, extra success would come from not being last in our category.
Two of us started biking more to increase our chances of finishing well. It was fairly sporadic to fit round both of our work and other commitments. In fact the only way we could do anything together was to go biking at night. Our friends thought we were mad tackling the local red-graded trail at Carron Valley in the dark and at first we were a little tentative. Headlights bring things into sharp relief – either beautifully bright or painfully (mainly to knees and legs) dark and foreboding. It made us think harder though and biking with our head switched on improved our abilities. We got noticeably fitter as well, making it further as the weeks passed before stopping for a breather. We commented several times that neither of us would have gone out to ‘train’ as often as if we had been alone. I also know for me, seeing how well my partner was riding spurred me on to get better too.
As we drove up to Fort William a few weeks ago, I pondered on the weeks that had passed. I realised that, even if we finished last, I was happy, having already done more biking than in previous years. With a goal to work towards, and someone to work with, I had done more of what I wanted and even if I didn’t achieve my aim of not bringing up the rear, the peripheral gains were great. As Robert Pirsig says, it’s the sides of the mountain that sustain life, not the top.
Sometimes we find that once we set goals and head towards them, we gain unanticipated things along the way. This is simply appreciating what is around us as we live, making the most of wherever we are geographically and metaphorically. If I had stopped to think it through more analytically at the start I would have recognised the more-biking benefits of entering 10 Under The Ben.
However, like the old idea that if you reach for the stars, you should at least get to the moon, even if you don’t achieve what you set out for, recognise the interim successes that you do achieve. But only beyond the point where the original goal proves unreachable – don’t give up and settle for less than you originally wanted without very good reason. Maybe you need to allow more time, possibly the original goal was not as achievable or realistic as you had at first assumed. There’s even the chance that as you start to work towards it, you realise it’s not the right goal for you anyway(albeit limited) successes instead.
So in short: set a goal, partner with people who want similar things and, once the time is up, celebrate what you achieve along the way.
And in the end we didn’t disgrace ourselves anyway. We can all go faster when we go back next year though, if we work a bit harder.