So what on earth has cycling got to do with empathy development?? Not a lot you may say. But let me share with you my three links between these two things. And let me introduce you to my new toy and Christmas present to myself….my new bike! Lovely isn’t she! Yep female. Having been in a house dominated by males, with 3 sons for the last 14 years, everything now, by default, has to adopt a female status!! 🙂
In my attempt to improve my fitness level I decided I needed to strengthen my muscles and cardiovascular capabilities. So it was time to invest in a decent bike. As much as I love my shopper bike, it’s 3 gears really do not help with the hills!! It was time for a hybrid 21 speed monster!
So off I set on New Years Day to tackle those hills! I knew it would be challenging, but off I set, thinking I did not need to know anything about riding a bike….I mastered it years ago! I had learnt to ride a bike at 5 years old…42 years previously. It was part of my unconscious behaviour. It was auto pilot. I didn’t need to learn anything else…..OR DID I!!!!!!
Hitting the hill, I suddenly realised that whilst I had this clever bike with 21 gear options, I didn’t actually understand them very well and how best to utilise them. And this is when I started to think about how this links to empathy. On the courses that I run on empathy we look at whether empathy is natural or can be learnt, with mixed answers and some will come into the room feeling that they are already empathic people and what more could they possibly learn?
So here is link #1: 72% to 93% of our daily activities are unconscious. Once we learn to ride a bike, it becomes second nature. We get on the saddle and our feet and legs know instinctively what to do. When we listen and communicate with someone, we instinctively know what to do. But with cycling, without understanding the more complex issues of gears, we will find it hard to make use of the benefits. Without understanding how the brain works, and the empathy circuit and how that can be eroded or utilised, we will find it hard to make use of the immense benefits of our amazing minds.
Link #2: Both get strengthened by using and practising. The more I use the bike and get practised at the gears, the more I will be strengthen my cardio vascular and my muscles and the better I will perform. The more the neurons are fired up in my empathy circuit, the stronger they will get and better I will be able to communicate in an empathic way. Plus with both the bike gears and empathy skills, my new imported abilities will become second nature to me also and I will not have to try so hard or concentrate so hard to perform well.
Link #3: When facing a long, steep hill and climb, using the gears well on my bike, what would once have been very challenging and probably impossible, causing me to give up or ‘run away’ from the difficulty, becomes easier and achievable as I reach the top of the summit. When it is hard to understand another and conflict arises, using a strong empathy circuit well, can give you immense insight to another’s internal frame of reference to understand on a deeper level that otherwise you would not have been able to do. And instead of giving up or ‘running away’, you manage to climb what could have been an impossible hill to climb!
SO….I may know how to ride a bike already, but I am educating and empowering myself to do it better and use a 21 speed gear system through learning and developing my knowledge. I am learning to use my bikes full capacity to better me! Everyone who attends my empathy courses are educating and empowering themselves to understand and use their empathy circuits full capacity , to be a better them! As am I, as I continue to learn with every person that I come into contact with (sometimes getting it right, sometimes not) but developing my empathy and emotional awareness along the way. In fact, the more I use my bike, the stronger my body will get. They more I use my empathy circuit the stronger that will get.
We may think we don’t need to learn anymore about something we assume we already know, like communicating and understanding, but to grow and get better, those unconscious, already learnt processes, often need learning in a whole new and exciting way, to get better and better and be the very best version of ourselves that we can be!
Visit my website www.empathytrainingltd.co.uk