In Part 1 of this series, I wrote about 5 life lessons I learned through facing my fear of heights by tackling a high-ropes obstacle/zipline course. In this post, I’ll cover the other 5 lessons this experience taught me.
Life Lesson #6: Learn from the People Who Go Before You
One of the things that helped me the most in navigating the course was watching the people who were on the course ahead of me. I could learn what worked for them – where to put my feet and what to hold on to – and I could see what didn’t work.
This is true in life too. No matter what you want to do, chances are someone else has done it, or something very close to it, before, and you can learn from them. Whether you want to become the best doctor or lawyer or salesperson or graphic designer, or whether you want to write a book or climb a mountain or run a marathon, there are people who have already done it, and who have done it well. Take advantage of their wisdom – learn what they had to do, and how they did it. Follow in their footsteps.
Even if you are truly pushing the frontiers of possibility, and no one has ever done what you dream of doing, this lesson still applies. Look for people who have created new paradigms and gone where no man (or woman) has gone before in other fields. Study the lives of people like Thomas Edison or Marie Curie or Albert Einstein or Steve Jobs. Learn how they broke through the contemporary limits of imagination and knowledge, and how they dealt with naysayers who said it couldn’t be done.
Life Lesson #7: When You Step Outside Your Comfort Zone, You May Get Some Bumps and Bruises
The day after my little adventure, I was pretty sore. I had some bruises on my arms from the death grip I had on the cables, my muscles were screaming, and I had some bug bites. Nothing serious, nothing unexpected, but it took a few days before I was back to normal.
Pushing our boundaries in any area of life can create some discomfort. The first time you try something new (and maybe even the second or third time), you may not be very good at it. You may feel awkward. You may get turned down or rejected. Your ego may get a little bruised.
Don’t worry about it. You’ll live through it. Keep pressing forward. Discomfort, and even failure, is a part of growing and reaching new levels.
No one who has ever achieved greatness in their field reached the top without getting battered and bruised along the way. We often have this misguided (and disempowering) idea that the path to success is smooth and painless for people born with a natural talent.
It’s not true.
Look into the life story of anyone you admire, and you’ll find they had setbacks and failures and embarrassing moments.
Everyone has a natural talent for something. The difference between those who make the most of their talent and those who don’t seems to be, at least in part, a tolerance for the bumps and bruises along the way.
Life Lesson #8: Stretching Outside Your Comfort Zone Is Tiring – Take Good Care of Yourself
I was really tired for a few days after my big adventure. Not a big shock, since it was physically demanding. But part of the exhaustion was mental – I had spent weeks preparing to battle my fear, and I shook up some deeply ingrained beliefs about myself. My brain needed a rest too.
So I gave myself a few days to relax – I did the things I needed to do, but I didn’t stress myself out about how little progress I made on my overly ambitious to-do list(s). I tried to get to bed a little earlier, and slept a little later. I cut back on the intensity of my workouts.
Any time we push outside our current boundaries, take on new challenges, and try new things, it takes a toll on our body and mind. If what we’re doing triggers any fear or anxiety, our bodies are flooded with stress hormones and neurotransmitters. Constantly pushing ourselves without a break is a ticket on the fast train to burnout and complete exhaustion. We need to allow ourselves time to recover and regain our equilibrium so we’re ready for our next step forward.
Life Lesson #9: Celebrate Your Wins
I rewarded myself for completing the obstacle course by going out and buying a new pair of earrings that I’d seen the week before at a local farmers’ market. I’ve worn them several times already, and each time I put them on, they remind me of my victory over fear.
Positive reinforcement is important. We recognize this when we’re helping young children learn a new skill, like learning to walk or ride a bike. Watch parents of little kids – notice how excited they get, and how profusely they praise and encourage their children. It’s effective, too. Meaningful, sincere praise makes us feel good. It’s a strong motivator. Remember how hard you would work to get a gold star or cartoon sticker in grade school?
Yet for some reason, as we get older, we get a lot more reserved with our praise. Maybe even stingy. We cut back on acknowledging smaller daily wins, and save it up for “big” events like graduations and promotions. But we never lose that human need for praise and recognition. In fact, studies have shown that in the workplace, employees get more satisfaction from being appreciated and praised, especially in public, than they do from bonuses or raises.
While it would be nice to have our own personal cheering section following us around, ready to celebrate each and every win, that’s not always practical. It’s important to surround ourselves with positive people who support us and believe in us, but perhaps more importantly, we need to become our own biggest fans and best cheerleaders.
When you step outside your comfort zone, or face a fear, or take a step towards an important goal, celebrate yourself! Be generous in praising yourself. Find a healthy way to treat yourself. Recognize your accomplishment. Allow yourself to experience the joy and satisfaction of pushing yourself beyond your current limits, or moving one step closer to your dream.
Life Lesson #10: Climbing Harnesses Make Your Shorts Bunch Up in Potentially Embarrassing Ways
This lesson is literal and self-explanatory… just check to make sure your clothing is arranged properly before taking victory pictures 🙂
So, that’s it for my latest adventure. I’m glad I did it. Facing fear and coming through on the other side builds confidence and stretches your perspective of what’s possible. This experience has empowered and energized me to take on new and bigger challenges in all areas of my life. I’m getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.
I encourage you to begin to move outside of your comfort zone. The life you want is out there, just outside your current boundaries. So, what fear is standing between you and your dreams or goals? What is one step you can take this week to face that fear and move past that block?
Share your experience in the comments below!