My friend Jesse and I have recently been talking a lot about visualizing living the the life we imagine — and achieving it. Seems like a huge topic, and indeed it is, but when I really think about it, it’s not such a daunting thought. The only things that makes it seem huge and overwhelming are the self imposed roadblocks we sometimes put up for ourselves. Allowing myself to be truthful (and realistic) about what I want out of life has been an amazing and enlightening exercise. Like the title of my blog claims, I’m “Livin’ the Dream” (at least my own dream)!
As this conversation with Jesse has unfolded, I’ve thought about some silly and benign things from the recent past that now seem relatively relevant, at least as they relate to visualizing what we want from life.
Back in the summer a group of us went to Fruita to spend a weekend mountain biking — always fun and always challenging. Three of us were riding a particularly sandy and technical trail when one of our little posse rounded a corner and took a digger after her tyre dug into some loose sand. As we were sorting out the bike and scrapes, Adam very lovingly said to our riding partner who had crashed (we’ll call her Karen for this story), “I totally saw you look at the exact spot where you were going to crash“. It was certainly only a friendly little jab said in jest, but what he said was 100% spot on. Instead of visualizing the whole technical section of trail were were riding, Karen in all likelihood lost focus of the big picture, saw the obstacle and put to much focus on that. I’m certainly not picking on Karen because I ‘m totally guilty of it too, as we all are at times.
A couple of weeks ago, I was out riding here near my house and without really thinking about it in the context of me and Jesse’s conversation about “life visualization“, I decided I would try and ride my bike along 100-150 meters of trail with my eyes closed, just to see if I could do it. The first 10-20 meters went pretty well but my mind was consumed with what could go wrong…what WAS going to go wrong! Sure enough, I lost my focus of the overall goal and ran off the trail and crashed. When I dusted myself off, I looked back and was disappointed that that I’d probably only made it about a quarter of what I originally wanted. For some reason, the whole thing really bugged me, a lot. Right then I remembered what Adam had said, and I also put it into the context of me and Jesse’s ongoing conversation. I had done exactly the very thing we’d talked about having to avoid in all aspect of life…losing our focus.
Before I had even started physically pedaling on my first go, I had closed my eyes and rode the entire section in my mind. I saw every bump and bend and I saw myself being successful. The very second I pushed off and clipped into my pedals, I thought of every imaginable thing that could go wrong and I immediately lost my way. What if I run off the trail? Where am I? Of sh#$%, this is really stupid! Turn right, TURN LEFT…..aaaaaaand then I crashed.
I love this stuff.
Undeterred, I hopped on my bike and rode back to where I started, looked at the trail again and decided that what I needed to do was only focus on the positives, the path, the place I wanted to be and not break away from that. That didn’t mean that the obstacles weren’t there and I should consider them, I just needed to contain them, manage them and deal with them…and not let them stand in my way of achieving what I wanted to achieve. Once again, I looked down the trail, then shut my eyes and visualized a clean ride. I opened once more and confirmed the physical trail, shut my eyes again, visualized it again, and pushed off.
This time I forced myself to feel how fast I was going and visualize where I was on the trail — not where I going to crash. I could remember the subtleties of the trail and the one slight bend. Most of all, I visualized 100% that I was going to do this. When I stopped and opened my eyes, I was about 5 meters short of where I thought I was, but I hadn’t run off the trail and I hadn’t crashed! Most importantly of all, I hadn’t let negativity get in the way of what I wanted.
Fast forward a couple of weeks and this past weekend Adam and I went up to Keystone for our first day of pre-dawn skinning and skiing of the season. The first day of climbing on skis is always an experience. The ski legs usually have acquired a thick layer of dust on them from non-use over the summer season. And regardless of how much we mountain bike, hike or climb during the summer, it’s just a different muscle group being called into action and something we learn to embrace with love each and every year. Much to my surprise, this year wasn’t horribly painful but still, you’re climbing steeply for close to 1,000 vertical meters in just a couple of miles (with skis on—at altitude) so it’ll still get your attention. Anyhow, we quickly climbed up to the summit in about an hour and fifteen minutes and though I was a little worked, we had a world class resort all to ourselves and life was good.
As I was stripping the skins off my skis, I knew the five alarm quadricep fire was going to commence once I dropped those first few tele turns. Again, I don’t care how much you train, those first couple of days of the season on teles are downright painful. Nevertheless, I was excited to get going. Adam dropped in and true to form, was at mach speed ripping long, beautiful arcing turns down the wide open trails. He would never admit it, but that dude can totally rip it on skis. Holy crap! I followed (well behind) and true to my expectations, my quads were ablaze after the first six or eight long, deep telemark turns. It wouldn’t have mattered if we’d ridden the lift to the summit instead of climbing, those first few turns are always like heaven and hell…oftentimes more to the hell side. Still, we had the place to ourselves so I took nice, long turns without ever a fear of being plowed over by another skier. Just sit back, drop the hammer and enjoy the ride.
About half way down, I admit I was forced to stop and let the lactic acid drain from my quads. While I was standing there (massaging my quads, truth be told), I looked below me and saw a long, beautifully rolling, fairly gentle trail falling away below me. I know Adam will cringe (and laugh a little) when I say this, but for me, making telemark turns is something you feel and experience, not just something you do. When you link turn after turn together, it’s like dancing and flying all at the same time. It was right then when I decided I would make six turns with my eyes completely shut. Just like I did on my bike, I’d visualize the path in front of me and 100% commit to it. I visualized the rhythmic turns I would make and the concise arcs I would carve in the untracked snow. Most of all, I visualized success.
Without much ado, I shut my eyes and made those six turns without once opening my eyes. I stopped exactly where I had envisioned. When I looked back up the hill, I could see that my turns were uniform and exactly along the path I had imagined. I never once thought about failure, only about doing what I love and making it exactly what I wanted it to be.
I’m usually pretty good about visualizing exactly what I want from life and letting that be my guide. That’s certainly not to say that I fly through life with my eyes closed! It would be naive to think that obstacles won’t come my way from time to time in everything I do. But what I’ve become so incredibly aware of is that just like Adam mentioned to Karen, like what I proved out on my bike a couple of weeks ago, and like I demonstrated to myself on skis that past weekend, I have to keep my focus dialed in on what I want out of life for it to go off the way I want it to. Take on the obstacles and bumps which will inevitably come, but never, ever lose focus of what I want.
The only thing I truly want from this life if to be happy and share that happiness with those who I care about. The rest is just icing on the cake.
Travel light, climb high, ski hard, pedal far, live simply.