• Sarah Merrell

Become a Better Motorcyclist by Believing (and Setting Goals)

During this year's Women's Sportbike Rally, I learned a valuable lesson in self-efficacy. The theme was "ride brave" and addressed how as motorcyclists, we often have mental and personal barriers holding us back from our potential. It's amazing how many people at the rally shared similar feelings, such as these, that can create a mental road block to progress:

- I will never be as good a rider as my friends.

- I will never be a motorcycle racer.

- I will never win a race.

- I can never learn to do my own maintenance and repairs on my bike.

- I will never be as fast as the guys I ride with.

- I'll never be able to load and unload my bike myself.

Some of these sentiments are ones that I have felt myself over the years. When I was first introduced to motorcycles and rode on the back, I thought I could never learn to ride or own my own bike. And once I did, I thought I could never ride as well or as fast as the people in my peer group. There were times in my life where I thought I could never confidently ride on the track, load my bike, win a race or drag my knee. But over time, through practice and persistence, all of those things happened. Looking back, it seems silly that I ever doubted myself. And now I think about how quickly I could have progressed, and what I could have accomplished, if I just believed in myself from the beginning.

The great thing about motorcycling is that it's a sport that stretches and strengthens you. It's not like joining a knitting club. It takes a lot of guts, courage and determination to get on the track or participate in a race the first time or tackle a very technical road. It forces you to push outside of your comfort zone. Great things never come from comfort zones. And when you finally do get out of that comfort zone and realize what you've achieved, it's such an amazing feeling.

As motorcyclists, we have to stop using words like "I'll never" or "I can't." Instead, we need to have the confidence to set goals, even if it seems far-fetched, and believe that the goals can (and will) come to fruition. It just takes work--but also the right approach to goal setting.

While in school for my Masters in Business Administration, I learned a thing or two about goal setting that I'll share.

Think about this: Say you have a gun and there's a target in front of you, but no bulls eye or marks. How likely will you be to hit your mark? Obviously, it's highly unlikely since it isn't defined. Goals are the same way, you have to define what you want to achieve and set parameters. You've probably heard of setting SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time Bound). By following this framework, it enables you to set goals that are clearly defined and you'll be more likely to achieve.

Also, it's helpful to set short-term and long-term goals. For example, a long-term goal of mine is to improve my riding enough to bump up to Advanced at track days. But, I set some short-term goals at the start of the year to help get there over time. One goal was to do more track days, but using the SMART goal frame work, I made it measurable and time bound--to do at least four track days during 2019. Another goal to help get me there was to do Yamaha Champions Riding School in 2019. The nice thing about these smaller, short-term goals is not only do they help get you on the path to achieving your long-term goal, but they offer small achievements along the way that provide a feeling of progress and therefore a confidence boost.

I've also found that it's important to think about your goals on a daily basis. Small decisions that you make on a daily basis can impact your goals. For example, if I'm not careful budgeting my money, I won't have the funds to do more track days--and that can prevent me from achieving my long-term, "ultimate" goal. Or working on certain skills when I'm out riding. So that I keep my goals front-and-center in my mind, I like to take an index card, write down my goals, and tape it to my bathroom mirror. That way I see them every time I wake up and every time I go to bed at night.

While goals need to be attainable, I like the idea of setting lofty goals, and you may be surprised that with dedication and knocking out your smaller goals, it can be much more achievable than you think. I used to think racing my sportbike would never happen, but now I'm ready to set a goal to do my first race within the next year. There's nothing wrong with dreaming. Have you always wanted to race in MotoAmerica? Or travel to Europe to ride the roads? Or own a Ducati Desmosedici? Set some goals.

In conclusion, whether you're a man or woman, we can all benefit from "Riding Brave." I'm thankful that Women's Sportbike Rally had this theme and mantra. It's a reminder of the power that comes from believing in yourself and pushing past the self-doubts. Being a better motorcyclist isn't just physical, it's mental. And self-efficacy plays a huge role in that progress.

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