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Getting Your Bearings

In his book, The Other 90%, Robert K. Cooper tells a quick story about his grandfather. "When my grandfather Cooper and I planted trees, he would stop every half-hour or so. Reaching into his pocket, he would take out a small compass he carried. I always knew what he would say next: 'Robert, let's stop and get our bearings.'"

Getting our bearings is important so we know where we are, were we have been, and where we are going. In addition to our geographical bearings, we also need to take a few minutes to get our personal bearings sometimes. They can be even more important than our physical bearings because we can always eventually find our way home if we don’t know where we are in the world. On the other hand, we may not make it home if our mental bearings are askew.

"We need to stop and check our mental compass occasionally to get our bearings during our ride."

We need to stop and check our mental compass occasionally to get our bearings during our ride. We can start the process by assessing our current position to determine where we are now. We can ask ourselves how we’re feeling about our riding so far. Are we getting tired or fatigued? Have we had any close calls along the way? What caused them? If they were brought about by someone else, were we prepared to deal with them or did we get surprised by the situation? 

Then we should attempt to identify how we got to where we are by evaluating our riding style. Are we becoming aggressive on the road? Are we beginning to challenge other traffic at intersections or push our limits as we sweep through curves? Have we become pre-occupied with other thoughts as we ride? Maybe stress from work or pressures from home have crept into our mind as we travel down the road. Are we still focused on our riding or have we been quietly lulled into a state of complacency on the isolated back road drifting along? 

Once we have established our bearings and know where we are, we can reset our attitude, if necessary. Are other drivers making us angry by their actions on the road? Are we seething about the SUV that cut us off? If we’re still seeing red over that bonehead move, what other situation might be developing that we’re not seeing. 

Do we need to relax any aggressiveness? Has our speed started to climb? Are we riding closer than normal to the vehicle ahead as we frantically look for an opportunity to get by this irritating person? Have we forgotten that our reason for riding is to have fun? So what if we have to back off a little and it takes us longer to get to our destination. Doesn’t that just mean we have more time to get pleasure from our ride? 

Has our mind become cluttered with other things that are distracting us from our riding? Do we need to take a break to clear our head so we can apply all of our faculties to seeing what’s happening on the road and to making the sound decisions we need to safely handle these situations? Do we need to refocus our thinking so we can relax and enjoy our ride? 

Stopping and getting our bearings can help ensure we have the right attitude to more safely maneuver our motorcycle along our chosen route. Realigning our approach to our riding can also help us make it home unscathed from the treacherous roads filled with unplanned surprises. As Grandpa Cooper said, “Let's stop and get our bearings.”

Ride Smart! Ride Safe!