Riding a Bike In Tuscany Taught Me Why People Don’t Set Goals
“Are you lost?” “No, I just don’t know where I am.”
I learn a lot riding my bike. We’re in Tuscany for a month and today was the sixth day of riding. Twenty glorious days to go. The first day, and every day since, I simply decided which direction I was going (north, south, toward the hills, away from them, etc.), then got on my bike and went.
Living For The Moment
I have spent hours each day blissfully unaware of where I am, just riding through the countryside, impulsively going left, right or straight as it seemed right for the moment. The future and the past don’t play into the decision. I’m just “living for the moment.”
But each day I have to find my way back to our fairly remote, countryside villa south of Lucca. The first day it took an hour to find home on these winding roads (even with a digital map), where I could easily have done it in 20 minutes if I knew the area. Each day since it has gotten easier.
“I Just Don’t Know Where I Am”
Every day my wife, Diane, and daughter, Laura have asked me, “Were you lost?”, to which I always reply, “I’m never lost, I just don’t know where I am.” Today, I was going through the process of finding my way home, and on an unusually straight stretch of road with time to think, I realized that I get a little perturbed right around this time in every ride, because now I’m actually trying to get somewhere.
That’s when I figured out why people don’t set goals. Because they answer the question the way I did—“I’m not lost, I just don’t know where I am.” On that same late stretch today where I was now trying to hone in on the villa, I realized that I actually do get lost, and I do it once on every ride; when I’m trying to get home; when I finally have a goal.
Measuring Progress Requires a Goal
In Alice in Wonderland, Alice asks the Cheshire Cat which direction she should go. He responds wisely with the question, “Where are you going?” Alice says, “I don’t know”, to which the Cat replies, “Then either road will do.” And off she goes, enjoying her adventure.
When I have nowhere I need to be, I’m simply on a glorious adventure with no constraints, no rules, no timelines, and no pressure to perform. Nothing to measure in the long run. I truly am not lost, I just don’t know where I am. But that’s okay, because I have nowhere I need to be.
But as soon as I ask, “Where is home?”, I’m immediately lost, because now I have somewhere I need to be, and at first I don’t know how to get there. My stress level goes up a bit, and I start getting frustrated that I missed a turn, or have to backtrack, when minutes before, I would not have seen any of those activities as missteps. I’m now “failing” (we should call it practice or learning) where I used to have no measure of such a thing.
Too often we see that kind of pressure as negative stuff. But something else comes into focus as soon as I ask, “Where is home?” Instead of just wandering around, for the first time, I’m immediately measuring progress toward some potentially positive future goal.
Living On Purpose
All six bike rides getting home have come with a big sense of accomplishment by just finding our remote villa. The same is true on a grander scale with chasing my own personal Big Why, which is To Live Well By Doing Good. Things worth accomplishing always involve a challenge, some stress, and clear measurement of progress.
But utter clarity on where you are going and what it looks like when you get there, makes all that worth it. We can live reactively and any road will do, or we can live on purpose, design our future, and become intentional about getting somewhere. We get what we intend, not what we hope for.
“Where Are You Going?”
Nobody’s lost until they have a destination in mind. We shouldn’t ask people if they are lost. It’s a negative question that assumes incompetence. We should instead ask them if they know where they are going; where they want to end up. That’s an interesting challenge that just might change their lives.
Some people work hard at being confused because when they are confused, they are not responsible. “There are so many good choices of where I could end up, I just don’t know which road to take.” The ability to measure progress is sometimes threatening, but a man still finds his destiny on the path he chose to avoid it. You will end up somewhere, the question is whether by default or by choice.
He who aims at nothing, hits it every time.
Off to bed before a big ride tomorrow. Getting home is the biggest challenge I expect to face.
Where are you going?
Article as seen on Inc.com