My husband and I just returned from our vacation—cycling in greater Yellowstone National Park. While Teton Pass may not be as high in altitude as Kilimanjaro, when you’re on a bike, I can assure you it feels like it! And the big blue skies of Wyoming and Idaho are majestic. The week away from work was exactly what we needed.
Leading up to it wasn’t, however. One year ago, I had a traumatic cycling accident; without poring over the details, let’s just say that my right elbow is now mostly titanium. I felt like I went through every stage of the Kubler-Ross’ theory about dealing with loss and grief; denial, bargaining, anger, and depression were a big part of my healing—in addition to lots of physical pain. So a few months before the bike trip, I noticed myself saying to people, “Yes, I’m excited about cycling through Yellowstone, but mostly I’m nervous about cycling fast down the mountains.” It dawned on me that I was already shaping my future experience with my “nervousness” (psychologist call this “anticipatory stress”—in those moments, I just felt angst).
In the work I do with leaders, I know that you cannot control what you think. However, you can observe your thinking patterns and strive to channel your mind in a more positive direction. So I started using a tool to counteract my anxiety: spending five or so minutes each day visualizing myself cycling up and down mountains with a smile on my face and joy in my body. Your body is a physiological mirror of whatever is on your mind, so I hoped this powerful practice would set a better tone for my holiday!
I also realized that although I had the bike wreck last year, 99% of my cycling experience has been wonderful. In fact, my relationship with my bike has taught me a thing or two about how to live and lead wellbeing. I’ve blogged before about cycling to rediscover focus and purpose (see Read More), and this time was no different. I rediscovered the thrill of cycling downhill and regained confidence in my arm (and trust in myself). I’m baaaaaack at work—rejuvenated and clear-headed—and am already visualizing my next trip down another mountain.
How have you counteracted anxiety or visualized success in your life?
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• Motorcycles and the Art of Leading with Vision
A deep and early belief that the values of health and sustainability would remake the way we live, lead, and work in the 21st century led Renee to launch Wisdom Works with her husband David Moorefield in 1999. Ever since, she’s helped forward-thinking clients—including Apollo Group, Booz Allen Hamilton, Merck & Company, Centura Health, Western Union, and The Coca-Cola Company—embed wellbeing strategies to create inspired workplaces, develop caring relationships with citizens, and produce results that matter.
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I am so proud of the career you chose. You have touched so many people in so many ways!
Nice story Renee! A point well made. Maybe I’ll try that with my mild fear of golf carts driven by goofballs. (A story of its own.)
Please do share, Dave! I’m POSITIVE your story will have us in stitches!
Renee — great post! And thanks for putting a smile on my face! And for surfacing some fond memories myself!
I’ve had the good fortune (yes, you read that correctly) of having two cardiac events on a bike. The first was a scare that was diagnosed as a completely occluded coronary artery. Cleaned it out and got a stent. The second was a scare plus, a reocclusion of the same coronary artery, this time resulting in heart tissue damage (ie., a heart attack, but somewhat mild).
Do I still ride? You bet! And still race! You bet! In fact, my heart attack was at a race in April 2010 and I did that same race the following April! And this is with the encouragement of several renown docs!
But was it easy to get back on the bike and push myself until it felt like my eyeballs would pop out? No, not at all. But with time, I obviously recovered my gumption. In fact, and this is the “good fortune” part, these episodes have helped bring into focus how fortunate I am to be alive, healthy and with great friends and family.
I wish you loads of gratifying ascents and descents. And when you’re scared or real tired, just smile. The world will light up!
What a great story, Noel! And what a terrific role model you are to turn what could have been life-debilitating into truly “life-giving” … in this case, for you, your family, and now me (and our readers!) Thank you so much!
Renee, Thanks for sharing your inspiring story with such vulnerability. I wasn’t aware of all you went through in the last year and am glad to know that you’re tapping into the amazing capacity you’ve built through your life, to come through it all with grace and resiliency.
Thanks so much for your heartfelt support, Sue! It was a challenging time, to be sure, yet so much learning has come from it. I am grateful.