Developing the Happy Cyclist

The way we see the world is based on the specific thoughts we choose to replay and hold onto.  This can affect the happiness of our lives…and thus cycling.

There are 11 parts to developing the happy cyclist, and the below sections will give some insight into what is involved when we see situations in a manner that may create 'unhelpful thoughts'.  Happiness is often just a thought away, and with a clear head that moment is always closer…

‘All or Nothing’
You either ‘succeed’ or ‘fail’ every experience.  There is no room for ‘learning opportunities’, and this ride ‘is it’.  Looking back you will not scale the ride’s lesser moments, with an approach instead of seeing yourself as being good enough to justify being in the sport…or conversely you’ll simply want to forget the entire experience.
This viewpoint leads to a rollercoaster feeling for the training rides and races.  And what should be a succession of rides that build on fitness and endurance, with consistent training seeing you improve over time, is instead seen as a series of ‘hits’ and ‘misses’.  This viewpoint leaves no room for learning, with a setback on a ride often seeing the ride classified as ‘ruined’.
Eg. Puncture, bad start, wrong turn in a race (or ride) leading to a ‘terrible day’ on the bike.

Think “Grey is Ok”.
Focus on the bigger picture, and see one setback / hurdle as just that.  It’s just a minor detail, and you have the ability to overcome this experience, however to do this it is best to see this situation as an opportunity for growth.  You also can gain a lot by recalling other setbacks you have experienced.

You take a singular event and place the word “Always” or “Never” onto it, with the experience signifying one more defeat in a series of defeats.  There exists little room for your overall goal being possible, if you view every setback as a sign that defeat is all you are surrounded by.  You essentially end up waiting for the next setback, and eventually you will drown somewhere in the sea of defeats and setbacks. 
So your existence is placed at a polar end of the scale due to a single event, and you recognize this moment as another signpost telling you that you are going the wrong way.  Your rides (and enjoyment of them) become a ticking bomb, with a negative experience wiping ‘success’ from the ride.
Eg. Having a mechanical (showing that you always have bad luck), experiencing a puncture (again – chance and bad luck always being against you), and being dropped by a group (telling you that you’ll never be good enough for the group).

Think “I have control here – this is just one moment”
Focus on the experience being ‘a experience’.  This is a one-off event that may (or may not) have happened in the past.  You have the opportunity to learn from this experience, and by seeing the event existing somewhere on a continuum you are giving yourself permission to also allow room for improvement in the future.

‘Mental Filter’
One negative experience (amongst all the events you encounter) is picked out and focused on.
You selectively seek out that negative moment / occurrence, and ignore everything else.
Everything else is ignored, with that negative moment the central focus.  Good luck getting the positives going.
Eg. Replaying a one-off event, like a close call with a car, negative happening on the ride, or making a simple mistake such as nutrition.

Think “It’s just one part of my day”.
Focus on other aspects of your ride (and your day – and your life!!).  ‘Yes’ – you may have made a mistake.  ‘Yes’ – you possibly created the situation.  Give yourself permission to move on, and be gentle on yourself.  This will give you breathing space to see the experience holistically.  What will often happen also, is you will feel the positives from the experience flood over the negative experience.

‘Discounting the Positive’
You actively discount the positives that are presented to you.  The experiences worth celebrating are rationalised (and dispelled) in a way that makes them worthless.  In the process, your efforts become worthless.
Your highlights in life are edited out and end up on the editing room’s floor as you experience them.  You find imaginative ways to convince yourself that your successes don’t count.
Eg.  Passing others on a ride (they must be having a bad day), setting a new PB (must have been tailwind), getting an outstanding result (must have been too easy).

Think “I am content in this moment”
Focus on those positive moments and savour them.  They don’t have to be fully understood, and they don’t have to be compared or analysed – They just ‘are’.  Sometimes you’ll surprise yourself in a good way, and this is an aspect of living life to it fullest.

‘Jumping to a Conclusion by Mind Reading’
You lack the facts, but come to a concrete conclusion about how others will react.
It is assumed that you’ll receive a negative view from others despite no evidence to support that they’ll see things this way.
Eg. Assuming friends and family will think less of you for a ‘bad’ race result, feeling the group will get frustrated when you experience a mechanical or puncture, or thinking others will look down on you because you have been dropped by the group.

Think “I did my best”
Focus on what you did, and what you can learn.  What can you take away from this experience in terms of a positive learning opportunity?  Were you simply unlucky, or is there room for improvement?  Were your expectations too high?  Where did the expectations come from?  Were the expectations based on past experiences?

‘Jumping to a Conclusion by Fortune Telling’
You make the prediction that things will turn out badly, or a bad event will result from what you are about to experience.
It is assumed that you’ll experience something negative, despite there being little or no evidence that that negative events are unavoidable.
Eg. Assuming that because a truck drives over a bridge leaving no room that you’ll be hit if you are on the bridge at the same time, or thinking that because you have recently experienced punctures you’ll get more on the next ride, or feeling you’re more likely to experience a crash because there have been a string of crashes on a specific circuit.

Think “What can I do to take control of this happening?”
Focus on the aspects you can control.  Pinpoint what is causing the incidents, what you are (actually) doing in those situations, and be honest with yourself – have you been lucky, or do you have good habits in place?  If possible, address all issues before your next ride.

You either exaggerate the importance of a negative experience, or you minimise the significance that a positive experience represents in your progress.
By making negatives larger and positives smaller, you will perceive hurdles and difficulties on every ride, with moments of lightness and fun being instantly dismissed.
Eg. Being dropped by a group and ‘knowing’ that this confirms your lack of ability, or dropping a group on a ride and making excuses as to why the others have lost ground.

Think “Be in this moment”
Focus on what you are doing and compose yourself.  Even if all evidence points to you (seemingly) lacking ability, or others suddenly all having a bad ride.  Bring everything back to you, and what you are doing in this very moment.  This will create objectivity, and you will possibly start to note reasons for you experiencing the negative or positive event.

‘Emotional Reasoning’
The feeling you have about a situation defines your reality of the situation.  So how you feel is seen to be evidence to support this feeling.  This is a circular argument, and can become destructive and harmful if not seen for what it is – a temporary thought.
This viewpoint can hold you back from attempting situations, or at the very least giving your best for an experience.

Eg, You may feel inferior to a group of cyclists and therefore this is seen to support your feelings that you can’t improve, or you may feel very nervous about races which supports your belief that you can’t succeed when racing, or you may habour a view that main roads are dangerous and this view is used to support the perceived risk that exists for your safety.

Think “This emotion is fleeting”
Focus on the factors that are creating these feelings.  Consider the bigger picture, and be mindful of what is putting you into this view of the world in this moment.  Be aware that this mindset can be powerfully beneficial is controlled and used to make your world a positive one.  If you feel useless or worthless as a result of your ability, then you are possibly basing your ‘evidence’ of abilities on the very feelings that are being influenced.

‘Should Statements’
You look at a situation – past, present, or future – and make a statement framed as an absolute.  You make a demand that you ‘should’, ‘must’, ‘have to’, or ‘ought to’ complete the task at a specific level or higher, with excuses or any form of leeway being seen as unacceptable.
When aimed at yourself, these statements lead to guilt and frustration, with the sentiments leading to anger and frustration if aimed at others.
Eg. “I have to do a sub-6 hours for Taupo”, or “I mustn’t get dropped by the group this week”, or “Cycling ought to be easier for me now and I should be recovering faster”.

Think “Pursue the goal and learn from the outcome”
Focus on what you could have done differently after the experience.  Consider if the high standard was realistic, and if the standard being set in stone disadvantaged you in some way.  Maybe the high standard, with no leeway for hurdles, put additional pressure on you.  Maybe by factoring in hurdles along the way you can exceed your expectations from time to time.  Consider if the high standard being the only reference for success, is possibly removing happiness from the process – and consider that if you reach the standard everything, then are you happy…or simply relieved.

‘Personalisation and Blame’
Personalisation and Blame are two sides of the same coin.  Both are negative and both can lead to additional issues in the specific situation.
Personalisation is holding yourself responsible for the negative events happening to others.  For example, a crash in the group and the individual feeling they should have done more to avoid the incident.  (Despite being in a differing part of the group, or maybe even not being on that ride at all).  Personalisation leads to guilt, shame, and feelings of inadequacy. This doesn’t help the situation or your love of cycling.

Think “There was nothing I could have done at the time”
Focus on what others could have done better in the situation.  It’s that simple.

Blame, conversely, is the opposite.  Fault for situations is attributed to others, and the individual allocating the blame overlooks ways that they might be contributing to the problem.  This viewpoint can hold back progress, as the individual feels they are not to blame and thus learning opportunities are bypassed.  For example, blaming poor cycling race results on the group you were in, or assigning blame of most cyclist deaths on motorists, or expecting others to have the equipment you require for a mechanical.  Blame leads to resentment, and others will often look to return the sentiment.

Think “What could I have done better?”
Focus on what you could have done better in the situation.  It’s that simple.

Labeling is ‘All or Nothing’ thinking on EPO.  You advance from saying (for example) “I will never be good enough” or “I failed again”, through to “I am useless” or “I am a joke”.  This viewpoint is incredibly powerful, and by placing yourself into a (negative) labeled box you risk setting yourself into a place where you may remain for some time.
Labeling yourself is quite destructive because you do not become what you do.  We exist and have behaviours, however we do not ‘become’ our behaviours.  Thus, labels (which are abstract summaries of an event), can become a negative influence on us, and often lead to anger, anxiety, frustration, and low self- esteem.
Additionally, labels can be applied to others.  Often this occurs when people don’t live up to our expectations of them, and this shortfall – rather than being seen as somewhere on a continuum - is viewed as a ‘failure’.  By little effort being made to see what may have lead to the outcome, there can often be a shutdown in communication.  Seeing others this way can also make you feel hostile and hopeless, with improvement and reconciliation seen as difficult and sometimes seen as impossible.

Think “We are not our behaviours”
Focus on the behaviours, and the trends of where this situation is heading.  An individual, (whether it be yourself or others), is never ‘useless’ or ‘stupid’.  The situation may exist however whereby there is a lack of attention to details, or someone has too much of a workload and can not complete the tasks in a competent manner.  Looking at trends of behaviour will allow you to also look at the bigger picture.