Tattoos and Motorcycles

There were two things I told myself and others they should never ever do- get a tattoo and ride a motorcycle. About a year ago, I got my first tattoo and bought a motorcycle in the same month. I think this used to be called a mid-life crisis. The funny thing is that nothing about it felt like a crisis. It was a letting go of old beliefs and an opening to the possibility that my old ideas were nothing more than opinions. By loosening my grip on old habits and my certainty that I was right about things, the world got a whole lot bigger and offered a whole lot more freedom for me to be the full, magnificent person that I was destined to be.

It’s hard to operate with freedom when you are boxed in by limiting beliefs. Once we can recognize that most of the framework through which we see the world is built on stories (stories that are mostly fiction), things can start to get really fun. It’s like the tiny hole that you were looking at the world through just got a whole lot bigger. There’s so much more here than meets the eye once we can challenge our limiting beliefs.

How can we recognize a limiting belief? For me, when I start to feel very right (or even righteous) about something, especially when I feel the strong need to defend it, I am probably working from a limiting belief. If an idea or belief feels very personal, and that I am being personally attacked when that idea is challenged, I am probably working from a limiting belief.

As one of my teachers says, there is no emotional charge in hearing that 2 plus 2 equals 4. There is no need to defend it and it’s hard to generate any emotion about it since it is an unarguable fact.

But if someone told me that they enjoyed having a motorcycle, I would feel an immediate emotional charge and feel compelled to explain all the reasons why this was undeniably wrong and why I was right about this issue. Of course there’s all the obvious statistics about the danger, not to mention the costs to the health care system from the injuries, and the affect that such recklessness would have on all the friends and family members of the one who would make such an irresponsible decision. Sounds logical. So why would I feel an emotional charge? And why is it any of my business if someone else gets a motorcycle?

Here’s what I have learned through my coaching practice and my training with the Conscious Leadership Group. Being right is a common pattern that many of us develop early in life, some more than others, as a way to defend ourselves from our own fear of losing control. If I can create a system of beliefs that I am certain about, then I don’t have to face the reality that we really are in control of very little. My desire to control is based in the unwillingness to accept the fact that most of life is not in my control, and the fear that accepting it will lead to something that may feel anywhere from uncomfortable to life-threatening. It’s just scary. Can we just accept that we are scared, and send some love to the one that is scared?

This works like this for me, and maybe you can resonate. If it’s OK for people to ride motorcycles, then we are supporting irresponsibility, and then if that continues and spreads then maybe my world as I know it will fall apart. It has nothing to do with motorcycles. This is all about my limiting view of the world being unsafe and on the verge of anarchy which is based in stories, not facts. All of this happens subconsciously of course… until it is brought into awareness.

So how do we bring our limiting beliefs (notice the word “limiting” which very clearly means to me that these beliefs are holding me back from my full potential) into awareness? One way that really resonates with me is to use the “fact and story” game developed by the Conscious Leadership Group. When you are emotionally charged about something or notice yourself feeling right or righteous about something, the victim of a situation that was not your fault, or blaming others for your predicament, consider writing a list of the facts (things that no one could argue and a video camera could record) and the corresponding stories that your mind adds to make meaning around the fact. It might look something like this:

Some people own motorcycles They are irresponsible, careless, immature and more likely to be criminals
Motorcycles are a means of transport That’s BS! There are much safer ways to get around, they are making a FU statement
In Texas, helmets are not legally requiredIf you have a head injury, you should pay for it yourself- that’s just not fair for us
Motorcycles cost less than cars (generally) C’mon no one rides a motorcycle because they can’t afford a car, that’s just BS
My partner said he wants a motorcycle Midlife crisis! How dare he do that to me and our family and put us all at risk
I participate in road bike races/triathlons That’s totally different because it’s a sport and has a wholesome quality to it
An average of 800 US cyclists die every yearCycling is WAY safer than riding a motorcycle, not even in the same category, c’mon

When I look at a fact/story list, it becomes abundantly clear that all of the “drama” and emotion that comes up around my limiting beliefs are based on my fixation to the story. The facts are just facts- there’s no drama there. But if I can open to the possibility that my story may not be true, and a different or even opposite story might be at least as true, then the world gets a whole lot less frightening and more friendly.

So this might be a pretty benign and comical example (but to me it felt VERY serious) and you may have way more SERIOUS-feeling limiting beliefs. But I love the urban wisdom that I have heard many times this year that “no one gets just one tattoo.” Turns out that’s true for me, and after I let go of my limiting belief that tattoos were bad and wrong and I got one, that freed me to get another. Once your mind has been opened to possibility and freedom, it’s unlikely to stop wanting to keep discovering more. My point being that on the other side of limiting beliefs is freedom… tattoos, motorcycles, or name your story. Try it out if you want to, I’d love to connect with you and hear how this exercise lands with you.