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Three Life Lessons on Balance from Riding a Bicycle

Do you remember how you learned to ride a bicycle? Were you one of the lucky ones that learned easily? Or is the memory so terrifying that you’ve blocked it out of your consciousness (like me)?

Image: Public Domain

Image: Public Domain

Not having the privilege of raising children, I’ve never taught someone how to ride a bike. But in researching this, I turned to the nerd’s best friend (Google) and there are millions of results for “learning to ride a bike”. Most of them seem a LOT easier way to learn than the trail-and-error method that made me block out the whole “learning to ride a bicycle” process. To add to the terror, that was the days before helmets, so I guess I’m lucky to even be alive.

Regardless, the process involves several stages of learning, some of them at the same time. (Or if you were like me, learning all of them all at once.)

  • Sitting on the bicycle while stationary and with feet on the ground
  • Being able to straddle the bicycle and walk
  • Scooting the bicycle forward using your feet
  • Coasting on your bicycle by lifting your feet
  • Stopping the bicycle with your feet
  • Using the pedals
  • Turning
  • Steering towards a goal (and away from obstacles)
  • Uphill / Downhill
  • Traffic
  • Riding over rough terrain
  • And through all of this — falling, getting up, almost falling, and trying again

As you were reading the list, were you reliving all of those little victories at each stage? Either your own and/or the children you have taught?

So here’s a question – what’s some common threads through all of those stages? Surely there are many – persistence, learning, increasing complexity, starting simple, immediate feedback – but there are three I would like to highlight:

1. Balance

Read back through the list above. Did you notice how “balance” is integral, and yet intangible? It is one of the keys to riding a bike and yet it’s not a thing that you can touch, it’s not something you can take a picture of – you can see the effect but you can’t see balance.

Isn’t it the same way with Life Balance?

We can see the effect of a Life that is out of balance, we can point to people that seem to be in balance (although you never can see an entire life, only God can do that), we inherently feel when we are closer or further away from “our” balance. But in the end, since it is intangible, all we can really empirically measure is the effect.

2. Wobble

Maybe you haven’t thought of it before, but inherent in the idea of Balance (whether bike balance or life balance) is the fact that we are never actually perfectly vertical – we are always making small adjustments forward or back, left or right. As we get better, we learn how to adjust sooner and quicker, so it looks and feels like we are closer and closer, but there is always some wobble. And as we encounter new challenges, we have to learn new adjustments, learn how to react quicker, learn how far we can be away from vertical and still recover.

3. Knowing the Goal

When riding a bike, the first goal is not to fall over (especially if you’re not wearing a helmet), so you have to know what “upright” is — you have to know what it feels like to be perfectly straight, and how far you are leaning and how to adjust and change appropriately to get back to vertical.

When it comes to Life Balance, do you know what your “vertical” is? This is sometimes called your “center”, or your “center line”, or your “plumb line”. For most people, this is much harder to determine your Life Balance Vertical than the physical act of “standing vertical” or “riding vertical”. There are many reasons for this: it’s different for different people (so it’s harder to teach), the effects are less obvious to others (and easier to hide), and we often encounter rough life terrain before we are ready for it. This is a prime area where a Life Coach can help you.

What thoughts does this bring up for you? Please share in the comments below. Here are some thought questions to get you started:

  • How is Life Balance hard for you?
  • Since we are always wobbling, how can we give ourselves grace when we are out of balance?
  • What are some small steps that you have taken to determine your plumb line?

About Coach Dale

"Coach" Dale Young specializes in Executive, Leadership, and Teamwork coaching and has a passion for helping people figure out their purpose and passion -- and then how to pursue that. Dale holds a Certified Professional Life Coach (CPLC) credential from the Professional Christian Coaching Institute (PCCI) and is actively pursuing accreditation with the International Coach Federation (ICF). See the About page for more information.

2 Replies

  1. David Smith

    As you know well, I often have trouble with balance. I can do two of the three pretty well, but I always seem to let one slide. Maybe I’m doing too much in the two, or not rewarding myself enough, or something, but I sure would like to get to the bottom of it.

    1. David — it’s a process. Enjoy the journey and don’t stress over it, just keep growing. The only comparison you need to make is with the you from yesterday, not with anyone else. And I will testify you are better now than you were before.

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