I am a cyclist. I love it. It is my self-expression, my freedom. I tend to do more pottering these days than serious riding. I tend to savour the open spaces and the solitude; something I learned when I cycled from Cape Town to England. That was back in the nineties.
But I notice that something happens for me when I get on a bike, something good and…something bad. Let me tell you about the bad: I become a bully; I become self-righteous, I cut in front of people and I shoot red robots for the fun of it because - I tell myself - that the rules don’t apply to me.
I mean, come on, I have just been up a hill, I’m now speeding down hill - I’ve earned it – I have the wind at my back and the wind through my hair. I approach a red robot. Why should I stop now? I deserve it! I’m not driving a car for heaven’s sake! I remember a driver coming alongside me and winding down his window, shouting, “The law applies to you too, you know!” I told him to mind his business, but of course he was right.
But how is that behaviour different to Lance Armstrong? We are both breaking the law aren’t we? “Ah, come on,” I hear you say, “it’s different, what he did was way more serious.” Sure, but weren’t we still both breaking the law? Why is what I did less severe than what he did? We have laws so that our society works, so that people are protected. When I shoot through a robot and someone else has the same idea and hits me, what then? Never mind me, what about my family? The other driver? His family?
Now the really interesting part about all this is that I have stopped doing this to test my theory that if I stick to the law, honour my word, keep my promises then I can have a very different experience of life. I see and sense that if I do it, then I am making more of an impact than trying to fix, change and sort others out. I would go so far as to say that something miraculous starts to happen – I start to have the experience of a world that works; of order, of power, of integrity. This only works if I am willing to take responsibility for my part in our part; never mind what others do or don’t do.
I have noticed that I am less righteous, more relaxed and more present to the joy of the ride. It’s not that I don’t break the law at all, but I am much more aware when I do, and that makes a difference. It gives me a choice in the matter.
So, here’s my invitation:
Try just for a week sticking to the law and see how it feels and trust that by doing so, you are creating a shift in the world. I’m not only talking about doing it on your bicycle!
Try setting yourself a goal of 3-5 key things you are going to do each day and do them (you might want to apply a bit of a stretch if you are someone who does this naturally; get out of your comfort zone.) Most of us don’t set any goals or intentions at all and wonder why we don’t achieve the results we know we can.
When you catch yourself being judgemental towards others, ask yourself what part of their behaviour reminds you of yours: if you spot it, you have got it.
So, next time you catch yourself doing stuff that doesn’t work, try asking yourself, “and you?” It takes great courage, responsibility and awareness to do this and if you want to live in a world that works, it’s a great place to start. As Gandhi said, “be the change you want to see in the world.”