Little did I know when becoming a motorcycle instructor, that it would be the students who would be teaching me life lessons. Observing how people respond and react to situations highlights how we handle situations in our own life. It’s like holding up a mirror and it happens every time I teach.
As an experienced instructor and rider, it’s easy to see what students are doing wrong and coach them to improve. They’re just learning after all and can’t be expected to be perfect – yet! It’s also easy to see how unhealthy fear can hold us back.
Although these lessons are magnified on the range, we do the same self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviors in life that stall our progress.
7 life lessons learned from students
- Taking your eyes off your vision. Learning to focus your eyes on where you want to go, rather than looking at the motorcycle’s controls or the pylons that mark the course takes a great deal of discipline. Yet it’s an essential skill for learning to control your motorcycle and stay safe on the road.Invariably, looking down or getting lured by visual distractions will take you off course. Keep your eyes on where you want to go.
- Overthinking. There’s no question that when you’re learning a new skill you need to understand the concepts behind it. Yet there’s a point at which questions become dysfunctional for the level of understanding appropriate for the situation. Grasping the basics is necessary before dealing with more advanced concepts – like the details of how the engine works.Overanalyzing or making things overly complicated is a technique fear uses to make you feel overwhelmed and unable to move towards your goal.
- Worrying. Most people get uncomfortable at the thought of being tested and so it’s not unusual to get asked about what’s on the test at the beginning of the course. Students already worry about whether they can pass or not, before they even know what’s required!Worry steals energy from learning. The irony is that if you focus on the present, on learning each lesson, the test takes care of itself. Easier said than done. I know.
- Comparing self to others. Some students get upset when they perceive someone is catching on faster than they are and assume it’s indicative of their ability to learn.Without knowing another’s experience, learning style or whether they’re actually meeting the lesson objectives, they judge themselves against others. Someone with riding experience may progress more quickly than someone who has never operated a standard transmission, let alone been on a motorcycle. That same person may need to correct unsafe habits. Measure yourself only against your own yardstick. It’s the only assessment that will give you a true reading.
- Absolving personal accountability. It’s easy for a student to get frustrated and attribute difficulty learning to use the clutch, shifter or throttle to a mechanical problem.However, most of the time, all that’s necessary is stepping back, thinking things through and doing things differently – and voila – it works! Learning any new skill takes an open mind, patience and LOTS of practice. Be kind to yourself when taking on something new and you’ll learn much more quickly.
- Being reactive. While it’s important to focus on your long-term vision, you still need to be aware of your surroundings when passing through them. Quickly scanning your field of vision, including your mirrors, enables you to detect subtle signs from other drivers or movement at the side of the road and avoid hazards.You’ll miss these signs if your eyes focused too close in or down at the road, end up making a sudden move and jeopardizing control. Whatever road you’re on, keeping your eyes well ahead, allows you to be proactive and stay safe.
- Inappropriate speed. This can go in either direction. Low confidence and trust can keep you from moving fast enough to be in traffic. At the opposite extreme, ride beyond your skill level and you may not be able to respond to hazards.The correct speed comes from understanding your skill level and having the confidence to push your comfort zone within that zone. It’s the same in life. Trust your skills to deal with situations; yet don’t put yourself in situations you’re not ready to deal with.
We are all students and we are all teachers. Listen closely to what is being said or done. There’s a lesson in there for you to apply to your own life.