In the summer I cycle 100 miles for an organization called “Best Buddies” assembled in the Northern California countryside. This charity group pledges on contributions towards the betterment of life for individuals with mental disabilities. This is a yearly event of great satisfaction which this year provided even more critical thinking related to goals, motivations and how each of us sees the finish line-not only on the bike yet in any physical endeavor.
At the conclusion of the National Anthem, a sea of cyclists departed for a meaningful day of cycling. Immediately I merged into a peloton of cyclists which included one tandem cyclist team. A father was pulling his teenage son, who had Down Syndrome while he sat in a rickshaw attached to his father’s bike. My first thought was that this father decided to kick start the ride procession, and would taper off and conclude the ride early (as the distance being too far to ride pulling another). This was not the case. That evening at the award reception, the father was called on stage and acknowledged for pulling his son the entire 100 miles. This was the same 100 miles rode, which entailed a 6,106ft elevation gain, and remains one of the hardest days on the bike I have ever experienced.
For weeks after I wondered how this Father accomplished this difficult challenge. It made me ponder the differences each of posses while looking at the finish line and focusing our attention on a physical task. We have the choice to frame an experience as something too difficult and unattainable or something that we can undertake and persevere. A certain amount of physical conditioning is necessary, yet the mental programming brought to the table plays the starring role in one’s ability to meet goals. At the same moment of being captivated by this father, I heard volunteers, who were handing out waters at rest stops, making comments such as, “I don’t think I could ride my bike 20 miles let alone 100!”
The biggest overall lesson from this experience was learning later of studies and experimental motivational findings. Our mindset and the aspects of our psychological experience work in tandem changing how we see the world around us. We can actually picture in our mind the finish line as being a shorter distance than another person sees. This can be achieved by visualization techniques that hone our spotlight on the finish goal so precise that we see nothing around the perimeter. Individuals in studies related to this technique, which required a steadfast focus on nothing but the moment, experienced the finish line as 30 percent closer than people who got distracted and looked around. The studies unveiled not only that the finish line was closer but with this laser beam focus, exercise was 17 percent more enjoyable and participants moved 23 percent faster.
I related these findings back to this father that I had witnessed. He clearly had an unwavering spirit, mission and vision. He had a steadfast purpose to not only personally make the finish line but more importantly allow his son to experience this thrill. If each one of us can harness a resolute goal filled with similar perseverance anything is possible. Working on our wellness goals requires mental programming that is paramount to our physical state. We must be diligent everyday to focus on exercise and nutrition while learning this is only half of the equation. If the proper mental mindset is harnessed we have ultimate hope to reach the finish line and beyond.