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With the Tour de France ending just a few weeks ago, Australia has a lot to celebrate!
As winner of the green jersey — the Tour’s highest honour for the cyclist with the most points — Australia’s own Michael Matthews took to the podium in Paris with the Australian flag draped around his shoulders.
After three weeks of the sport’s most popular race, the 26 year-old became just the third Australian winner of the green jersey and will surely be a star of the future. It was incredibly exciting and inspiring for both Michael Matthews and the entire country!
Winning any jersey in the Tour de France is an amazing accomplishment for several reasons. The 21 day-long race covering around 3,500 kilometres obviously requires a massive amount of strength, stamina, and determination, but it also takes an acute attention to detail that many spectators are never aware of. These small details can make all the difference between winning the race or failing to make it through the first day.
This attention to detail can also teach us some incredibly valuable lessons about own own life balance.
Every Spoke Matters
At VitalSmarts, we believe many of us are just one habit away from being healthier, wealthier, and happier. But one thing I’ve come to believe about change is that we’re blinded to the reality of interdependence.
Several weeks ago, I was bicycling my normal route a few miles from home. All of the sudden, I heard a pop! The bike immediately skidded to a halt. I couldn’t figure out what happened so I unbuckled from my stirrups to check it out. Quickly, I saw a spoke had broken. This one spoke had so warped the tyre, I had to take the entire mechanism apart to even get the bike home.
When I got home, I pulled out my truing stand and spoke wrench.
If you’re not familiar with these, they’re designed to insert the new spoke and begin the process of “truing the wheel” — bringing it into alignment and creating integrity and strength within the wheel.
Every Spoke Affects Another
Bicycle tyres have 36 spokes (give or take depending on the bike), each woven from a different side of the tyre as it moves from the hub to the exterior.
When you’re working on a truing stand to take the bend out of the wheel, you have to adjust the spokes in pairs. As you tighten one, you loosen another.
As I looked at this design, I realised that not one spoke acts independently. This interdependence gives the wheel strength, integrity, and function.
And to true a wheel right, you have to follow three essential steps.
You can’t do this while you’re riding.
As you spin the tyre on the stand, there are two callipers you move closer and closer to the rim. When you see them touch, you back the rim off, take the spoke wrench, and tighten one spoke a little while loosening the corresponding spoke. Eventually, you get a straight and true wheel.
But if you’re a Tour de France racer, you don’t stop there. You know that when you ride out of the Pyrenees Mountains, you’ll be travelling 90+ kph. And what’s a small wobble at 10 kph is catastrophic at 90 mph. So, expert riders listen.
As they spin the tyre on the truing stand, they listen for the small nicks that the naked eye can’t see.
Truing Your Life
Now, I’m not here to make you an expert tyre truer. But I am here to help you understand how the principles of truing a wheel apply to truing your life into balance, meaning, and purpose.
But first, we need to debunk the myth of compartmentalisation. See, we have a tendency to think thoughts like, “I don’t really need to exercise today because it doesn’t affect the rest of my life.” Wrong.
Every part of your life is impacted by every other part of your life. Picture your life like a bicycle wheel divided into four areas: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
Each spoke in each area must be in balance for the wheel to rotate smoothly. If any spoke in any one of these areas is not trued, you feel it in other areas of your life.
The relation that exists between the mind and body is very intimate. When one is affected, the other sympathises. The human being is a multidimensional unity. We are one, uniting within ourselves all dimensions of life. In each dimension, all the other dimensions are present. Optimal vitality requires an integration of the physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional well-being.
3 Essential Steps
As we work towards balance in our lives, it seems the essentials for truing your life are the same as truing a bicycle wheel.
You’ve got to stop. Turn the cell phone off. Remove yourself from distractions.
Look for variations in each area. Ask yourself:
What’s taking place in my life physically (diet, exercise, sleep)?
How’s my stress management and how does it affect my mental capacity?
What’s going on in relationships?
How do these things impact my outlook in life in terms of meaning and purpose?
Then, you need to listen for the nuances. And to listen well, you need space, silence, and darkness. You can’t listen for the little nicks while you’re with someone else. You need time to get away. You need time to listen to the inner voice.
But you also need to listen to people who love you and want you to succeed. You may be blind to the glaring weaknesses that are obvious to them.
Stop, look, and listen. But you can’t just do it once. It has to be done daily. Because once you get a tyre true, normal wear-and-tear jars the spokes.
The cyclists in the Tour de France don’t check their bicycles once and then ride without concern. They continually pay attention to the details that make a difference.