Actively Choosing Alternatives by Letting Go

By Ricardo Gonzalez

I spent the last four years training, racing, and striving for a coveted qualification slot for the Xterra (off-road triathlon) World Championship in Maui. I qualified this May when I finished first in my age-group at the Western Region Championship Race in Las Vegas. It took dedication, sacrifice, and a bit of luck. Then, as fate would have it, on my last hard workout four weeks prior to the race, I crashed on the bike and broke a rib.

For three days, a stabbing pain accompanied any movement of the rib cage. After taking a muscle relaxant and vicodin (that masked most of the pain), I was able to contemplate racing in four weeks. I wouldn’t be in top form and I would have to do things differently.  I had to let go of any aspirations of placing and focus on just being able to finish the race.

Normally, I haul my bike, along with all the additional gear I can, in an awkwardly shaped bike box that ends up weighing fifty pounds.  I then wrestle it into a rental car, haul it to my hotel, unpack, and re-assemble the bike (that’s stem post, bars, front fork, seat, pedals, and rear derailleur).  After the race I clean the bike and repeat the process for the return trip.  I knew I couldn’t do it this time; the risk of re-injuring the ribs was too high.  I had to find a new alternative.  My friends already had their own boxes to haul, and it was too late to ship mine.  I figured the next best alternative was not to race on my own MTB (mountain bike), but to rent one when I arrived in Maui.

Fortunately, sometimes something bad, such as a broken rib, forces us to let go of the “tried and true” and leads us to a new alternative. 

It’s fun to see how different personality types choose and formulate alternatives.  Most of us analytical types will make a detailed list of pros and cons when faced with choosing among alternatives, and then cautiously and deliberately pick one.  The drivers will quickly sum up the situation, be direct, decisive and results oriented in choosing their alternative.  The amiables will patiently talk it over with friends, discuss it with their loyal supporters, and then trust in their decision.  The expressives will talk about even more alternatives, throw in a bit of drama, and by being charming and influential might have someone else haul the bike box around for them.

Regardless of what mix of types we consider ourselves, the key is to actively choose an alternative.  Even choosing to do nothing is a choice.  Generally, when we no longer act on new alternatives we stop growing and stop evolving.  However, when we choose to act, (although each personality type may follow a different process), there are two required elements: faith and courage.

We must have faith that there is merit in our choice, and have the courage to let go of the old way of doing things.  Often it takes more courage than faith to leave the tried and true path in favor of the new.  A friend of mine likened it to swinging on a trapeze; we have to release the bar we are holding onto and have faith that the new bar will be there.

Without faith and courage, we don’t let go of the old bar because we are too comfortable or complacent.  We don’t have enough incentive to make a change and choose new alternatives.  Other times, fear forces us into indecision.  Either way, we end up feeling that chance runs our lives because we are not instigating changes ourselves. Fate and circumstance are dealing the cards and we are reacting.

When several of these reactionary (in) decisions happen sequentially we can feel that we are not being effective in guiding our lives.  It’s precisely at these low times when we have to instigate change, let go, and have faith that we can grasp a new alternative.  In doing so, we regain the helm and point ourselves in the direction we want to go.  Actively choosing alternatives and initiating changes reinforces our purpose and our belief that we are giving direction to our lives.

When we have learned from the past, we can let it go.  We no longer need it; it has served its purpose.  Hanging onto the past will only inhibit, rather than guide, our choices.

In actively choosing the alternative to rent a bike, I let go of my old way of doing things and I had a great outcome. And, by way I finished the race even with a broken rib and a rented bike.