Did you know, according to popular thought, we are the sum of the five people we hang out with the most? If this is true, then our tribe contributes to whether or not we live up to better version of ourselves, or if we wimp out on our standards.
I saw this in action on a recent bike ride with several girlfriends. We were cycling from Hayward to Waunakee, and we had to get from point A to point B, every day for 5 days. Mostly we had enjoyed sunshine, puffy white clouds, 68 degrees, beautiful scenery, and smooth roads –ideal conditions for a bike ride, especially when you add evenly matched, gregarious riding companions to the mix.
Mother Nature had done her part and cooperated for days at a time. And then, BOOM, down came the hammer: She needs to see what we are made of. She made this decision the 3rd day into our five-day, 425 mile ride. Apparently, she felt we were getting soft.
Saturday dawned cool and gloomy; within the first 20 miles of our 96 mile day, it began to rain, a drizzly, soggy rain. Luckily it was not the pelting, thunder & lightening variety. It simply dripped down our necks and splashed water from the road and bike tires onto sunglasses and totally soaked us – the parts not covered by rain gear.
Now, in most cases, this is not the weather I would CHOOSE to ride in. Similar to other life events beyond our control, we can wrest back a bit of control by choosing our perspective and thereby, our attitude.
How to Shape Your Perspective and Improve Your Attitude:
Permanence. This key aspect influences how we navigate our circumstances. How permanent versus temporary do you believe the current conditions of your life to be? In our case, we knew the rain would stop and we had hot showers, laundry service, and steak and martinis waiting for us at the hotel. Yet, it would have been easy to be miserable by focusing on how long the rain was lasting, instead of how amazing it would be to arrive at the hotel.
Pervasiveness. Will you let a negative event take over – be pervasive – and spill into other areas of your life and bring down your happiness levels in all aspects of your life? Or will you be able to compartmentalize? One rider noted how riding in the rain became a meditative experience – since it wasn’t as safe to look around and no one was particularly chatty – it allowed her to focus exclusively on the act of biking and her technique.
Compare Down. Happy people tend to compare down, not to be smug, but because it helps round out their recognition of what is right even in what is going wrong. As I rode alongside several of my fellow riders, we talked about what would be worse than riding in the rain. Not surprisingly, stories of riding in other more dramatic rainstorms emerged – we recalled huddling inside a stranger’s garage as lightening crashed overhead. Even worse than riding in the rain was the threat of boredom and having nothing to do at the hotel other than watch day-time TV or soak in the hotel hot-tub, toe-fungus and kid-piss guaranteed.
Power of Tribe. Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, we did have a SAG wagon – meaning a mini-van and driver – as a support vehicle to carry our overnight bags from town to town. Not once did anyone discuss the option of abandoning the day of riding and getting into the SAG. Why not? It wasn’t necessarily hard-core heroics, however, it was the power of positive peer pressure – as a group we had had committed to a five-day ride and no one wanted to be the first one to call “Uncle” and get into the van. We stayed the course. The attitude of the day became “We’re tough; we can do this” and “What’s a little rain. Bring it.”
Food for thought:
What circumstances in your life are you viewing as permanent? What would change about your attitude if it was temporary?
Where are you letting a negative event take over and spill into other areas of your life? What steps can you take to compartmentalize it?
What is something going right even in the midst of what is wrong?
Who are the members of your tribe willing to support and champion the goals of your best self?