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The Energy Coach: Catherine: Finding the Big Picture on a Bicycle
My guess is that my workdays aren’t much different than yours. I’m booked solid with meetings, conference calls, tasks that are tied to tight deadlines as well as the never-ending influx of emails that require my attention. I’m often not sure how to respond when my husband, Paul, asks me at dinner how my day was. I know I was extremely busy, but I didn’t do any strategic thinking or serious problem solving. In fact, I’m not sure that I substantially moved the ball forward in any particular area. On the days that I express that frustration, Paul asks, “Could you go for a bike ride tomorrow?”
In my last blog post, I mentioned that a neighbor was inspired by my bike riding to build a ritual helping him re-introduce exercise into his life. While bicycling affords me lots of physical and emotional benefits, it has also given me some of my best ideas.
Linking biking to thinking began for me when I started training for Ironman Triathlons in 2001. In order to prepare for the 112 mile bike ride portion of these races, I would spend 2 to 6 hours in the saddle several times a week. When you are alone and engaged in a particular repetitive activity for that period of time, you’ve got to occupy your mind. I noticed that the bike rides provided me with a chance to think through complex issues more fully than when I sat at my desk.
I could easily see how just having the time—and little else to distract me—allowed me to sort through a particular challenge, but I was amazed at the insights that seemed to come out of nowhere. How could it be that when I didn’t feel that I was thinking about much of anything, I would get some of my best ideas?
It turns out that I was accessing the right hemisphere of my brain. The daily tasks and activities we face at work primarily rely on a logical, deductive, analytical kind of attention. This critical thinking helps us to drive sequentially toward an end goal and get things done. But on the bike, I was able to step back from the urgent demands of what was in front of me and take a wider view. I was open and receptive to seeing things in different ways and making new connections between ideas. The best ideas come to us, paradoxically, when we let go of conscious control and allow ourselves to see and sense more deeply. I now find that when I go out for a ride, I will “plant the seed” of an idea and I frequently return from the ride with some new thoughts about how to proceed.
How might you become inspired from my experience and build in opportunities to access your right hemisphere? Check out our tips section for some more ideas or read Tony’s recent blog, Six Invisible Secrets to Fostering Your Creativity.
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Hi Catherine, I found the same benefit you describe while training to run a marathon. Once I was physically in a steady rhythm, my mind was free to wander, at a more leisurely pace, through and across issues that had been hard to work with while sitting still. Cheers Peter
@ 2010/09/29 06:43:04 PM