by Liz Jansen
Aside from proficient technical skills, riding a motorcycle requires the rider to prioritize, focus, and pay attention to detail. The rider who has long-term success in arriving safely prepares for the ride, and then, while in the saddle, takes in only what is needed for the present.
In our daily lives, we are overloaded with sensory inputs, receiving many more signals at one time than we can process. It’s easy to get distracted. Whether your mind worries about something down the road that will likely never materialize or gets caught up in painful memories, that clutter clouds thought processes and usurps precious energy.
The vulnerability of a motorcyclist makes prioritization and focus an absolute necessity. These same skills benefit non-riding activities.
- Confirm your goal. As the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland said, if you don’t know or care where you’re going, “then it doesn’t matter which way you go.” Sometimes when you go for a ride, you just want to follow the sun without a definitive route, but even that’s a goal. Clear, realistic goals are the essential first step on which to base priorities.
- Make a list. When setting out on a road trip, write down the places that are most important to visit—the ones you don’t want to miss. For any undertaking, write down your overall goal, then the sub-goals that fall under it. These will be holistic, including time for body, mind, and spirit. It clarifies that what’s on your list aligns with your goals. If something is out of scope, then nix it. Ironically, when you write it down, it becomes much clearer, and there’s often not as much to do as your overloaded mind leads you to believe.
- Assess risks and consequences. During a recent long-distance trip, I kept a closer-than-usual eye on my tire tread. I wanted to cover 4,600 km (3,000 miles) in a given time period, and hoped I wouldn’t have to replace the tires along the way. I was quite confident that they’d last, but the potential consequences of riding on worn-out tires meant more frequent checks.
- Be realistic. Be honest with what you can get done in a day, considering your skills, time constraints, and inevitable unplanned events. I know that, if all I want to do is cover distance, I can easily cover 1,000 km (625 miles) in a day. But if I want to ride only in daylight, stop at points of interest, take scenic back roads, and arrive still energized, traveling that distance is out of the question.
- Plan and prepare. Any ride takes at least a minimum amount of preparation, even if it’s just checking your bike before you leave. Be proactive rather than reactive, without over-planning. Cover the priorities—i.e., tentative route, maintenance, points of interest, and gas stops—but leave room for serendipity. Being prepared gives you peace of mind, saves a lot of time, and makes whatever you’re doing more enjoyable.
- Be organized. Before you start your day, establish that you’ve got the resources necessary to achieve your goals for the day. Beginning your day with a full tank of gas and checking your tires for wear and air pressure allows you to put those things out of your mind and leaves room to focus on other things—like road conditions and scenery.
- Be flexible. There’s a saying that there are two plans for every day—your plan and Spirit’s plan for you. Substitute whatever you call your higher power for Spirit. Sometimes they’re the same, but often they’re not. How often have you come across a “Construction” or “Detour” sign when you’re riding? When things don’t go as planned, roll with it. Reassess the situation, and move off from where you are.
- Ask for help. Motorcyclists are widely recognized as charitable to others, but sometimes it’s hard to ask for help for yourself. If you’ve pared everything down and still have too much coming at you, ask for help. You weren’t put on this earth to be chronically exhausted from taking on too much. Others are standing by ready to help, waiting to be asked.
- Say no. There are so many things you could enjoy doing, but you can’t do them all. Sometimes you have to say no and catch them the next time around.
- Learn from the past. Don’t repeat patterns where you’ve made poor decisions that compromised your safety. Learn the lessons from the past, and use them to build a safe and enjoyable present.
Taking a few moments to prioritize your day helps you stay focused, promotes safety, and frees up time, not only to complete tasks but also to enjoy the journey. Taking these steps before setting out frees your mind of clutter and worry. There’ll be enough inputs to process while you’re on the Road.
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