The Importance of Looking Down the Trail

This morning I read a very good article about mountain biking skills on the International Mountain Bike Magazine web site that is a great illustration for leading a small group.

An important skill in mountain biking is to look down the trail, past what’s right in front of you. When you look down the trail a ways, you can identify potential hazards and challenges before you get to them, allowing your brain more processing time. The main idea here is to be proactive rather than reactive. Take it from me, constantly looking down just ahead of your front tire results in a jerky, stumbling ride and lots of falls. (Yeah, that’s me illustrating this point.)
In mountain biking and in leading a small group (or anything, for that matter), you want to make decisions before you actually get there (wherever “there” is at the time).

One of the seven signs of a healthy small group is:

Goals & Plans. The group has a written “Action Plan” that includes a mission, goals, expectations, ground rules, etc. (See my October 30, 2009 post for all seven signs of a healthy group.)

In other words, be proactive. Look down the trail a ways. Know where you are going, not just where you are at this moment.

As you project ahead on a mountain bike, your mind takes in a lot of information that your brain needs to process. As my mind processes all the information my eyes see, my brain can naturally anticipate more negative outcomes (Oh no, you’re going to hit that tree!) than positive (You’re going to flow through this section and land that jump ahead.) Negative outcomes will distract us, especially if we’re looking just ahead of our front tire. We need to learn to identify and respond to the good outcomes.

This past week, a member of one of our small groups emailed me with what she thought was a problem. She wondered if the church could reimburse the leader for all the copies she made for the group. Or should the group take up a collection to help the leader with these expenses? The member had not asked the leader if this was even an issue and did not know how or where the copies were being made. It was simply a reaction to what this person perceived (we’re going to hit that tree!). Now, if the group had proactively planned how lesson materials would be made and who would pay for them in advance, there would be no issue.

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When I start looking for a safe place to crash, guess what happens? Yup … I crash! But when I am looking down the trail proactively, the ride flows and is fun. I reach my destination and want to go again!

A healthy group is a proactive group. They take time early and often in their group life to look down the trail. They are constantly thinking “next … next … next …” They are prepared and they don’t freak out at little challenges along the way. They grow, reach out, serve, and develop new leaders. They excitedly look ahead to “what’s next?”

Learn to keep your head up and look down the trail! Being proactive produces confidence and commitment, both on the bike and in a small group.

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One Thought to “The Importance of Looking Down the Trail”

  1. Anonymous

    Sometimes we fall even when we are looking down the trail. Maybe because we took a chance. However, if you never take a chance, you'll never know what it's like to stick a landing when you are successful. Don't be afraid to make mistakes, on a bike or in your group.

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