The Secret Art of 4-Wheeling – Visualization

“Begin with the end in mind” is based on the principle that all things are created twice. There’s a mental or first creation, and a physical or second creation to all things.

Stephen R. Covey, “7 Habits Of Highly Effective People”

That passage is from Habit 2 of Covey’s best-selling book. Though the book is aimed primarily at business activity, its principles can be applied to many aspects of life.

That includes four-wheeling and other outdoors activities.

The mental part involves thinking through the steps – using visualization to picture a process through to its conclusion. But good planning also involves research using books, the internet and other resources. Partaking in the activity (four-wheeling event, for example), is the physical part.

Visualization is a powerful tool. I use it frequently, and recommend it for all outdoors activities.

Visualize to develop a checklist

Let’s say you’d like to develop a checklist for a camping trip. Spend a few moments visualizing the event:

-Arriving at the campsite

-Unloading the gear

-Laying out the ground cloth

-Setting up the tent; sinking the tent stakes, poles and such

-Arranging the camp stove and related equipment on the picnic table

-Setting up the grill

-Buying firewood

There could be other steps, but you understand the process.

Write your checklist as you “walk” yourself through the camp setup. You’re not just winging it. Instead, the checklist is based upon a realistic review of what you’ll do those initial moments.

Visualization applies to four-wheeling as well

A four-wheeling trip entails more variables. Use visualization to prepare for the following:

-Travel time required, conditions of roads, and such. Any construction delays or construction zones that you know of?

-What kind of weather you’re likely to encounter.

-The types of clothes and gear to pack.

-How much you know about the trail. (Do you need to scout the route?)

-Gas stations, hospitals, hotels/motels, and auto parts stores nearby, if any.

-Maps, trail guides, other resources to take.

Visualizing a successful off-road adventure helps prepare you for the trip. A thorough mental “walk-through” identifies many of the needs as well as possible challenges.

The second “creation” – the physical one – involves the action steps. Here is when it’s helpful to go scouting. Scout the route to the trail head, confirming that the roads are clear. Find out where the gas stations, parts stores, and clinics/hospitals are (if any). Any hotel or motel within a reasonable distance? Good to know, in case you and the gang need to bail out at some point.

Visualize picking the correct line

Visualization is effective in mapping the proper line to take. Get out of the vehicle and carefully assess the situation. What options exist based upon the obstacle? Visualize driving through the solutions. Which one appears best?

This process prepares you for handling contingencies. Perhaps as you’re clearing the obstacle a couple wheels go off-trail and begin slipping. Or the vehicle starts sliding in a certain direction. What do you do?

Take a few moments to visualize how you’d handle those situations. Tap your knowledge of the vehicle, the terrain, and your years of driving experience.

Now it’s time for the second phase, the physical one. Get back behind the wheel and proceed forward. At some point the obstacle enters the blind spot that exists in front of the vehicle. Having expected that, you confidently negotiate around the object visualizing the line you chose.

Continue to visualize for any contingencies. Should they occur, you’ll respond quickly and confidently. The incidents won’t come as a surprise, because in your mind you already saw the situation unfold.

Trail Leaders benefit from these processes

The Trail Leader needs to visualize the entire four-wheeling event. As noted above, visualization is employed to develop checklists and plan the route.

Trail Leaders use another powerful bit of advice. Returning to Stephen Covey’s Habit 2, the Trail Leader should begin with the end in mind. What is the purpose of the trip? What overarching goal(s) are there?

Reach out to whoever you can to get more information. Call rangers and others whose advice can be trusted. These actions are part of the first or mental creation.

The second part, physical creation, involves getting out to the trail. See where the trail is and what its condition is. Don’t simply rely on blog posts or other sources. Conditions could have changed since those writers visited.

Any valuable elements not mentioned in those source materials? Any hazards to watch for, such as washouts, boulders or narrow canyon trails?

Decide where everyone will meet (at the trailhead; somewhere else?) and where you will camp. Choose the end point for the ride, and determine how best to get back on the roadway.

Make notes of interesting portions of the trail. Those can include historical sites, rare or fascinating plants and animals, and eye-catching vistas. Develop a list of talking points to share during the trip. That narrative adds to the richness the other four-wheelers will experience.

Then, take the group four-wheeling.

Afterward comes the wrap-up phase. Solicit feedback from the participants and consolidate your notes. Use that information to create an even stronger adventure next time.

I call this entire process the Trail Leader Methodology.

Preparing for a four-wheeling trip is an involved process. More so for the Trail Leader. Using a version of Stephen Covey’s Habit #2, create a systematic approach to your preparation. At the heart of this technique is visualization. Visualize the four-wheeling event to create the checklists and identify possible areas of concern.

Visualization is also useful when encountering obstacles while on the trail. Pick a line, then imagine driving it. You will be prepared for any additional challenge that arises at that location.

Visualization is a powerful tool. Use it for your four-wheeling experiences.

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I hope to see you on the trails!
Tom Severin, President Badlands Off Road Adventures, Inc.
4-Wheel Drive School
Make it Fun. Keep it Safe.

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