Sunday, 18 October 2015
Step out of your comfort zone - I did!
This is the Wellbeing Column from the York Press on Monday, September 2015
Given the choice, I would not have decided to complete the Go Ape tree top course in Dalby Forest last month. The plans were for two grandsons to be supervised by an older friend, but after viewing the video, the friend told me that they didn’t like heights and would not do it. There was no time to find anyone else and not wanting to let the boys down, I said that I would do it. The staff were positive that I could manage the course of six rope ladders, eight wobbly walkways and six zip wires. “ 80 year olds have done it!”, they said. The highest point amongst the trees is one hundred and thirty-four feet. They assured me that I could be rescued at any time.
Going up the first rope ladder, I realised that my weakening wrists attempting to lift a heavy weight was going to be a challenge. It proved to be so and the rope ladders were unexpectedly the most difficult part of the course.
There followed two hours of one of the hardest challenges I’ve faced. Not helped by a nasty fall in the garden the night before, which I kept to myself. It was a long way out of my comfort zone and I did it! The reward at the end, was an indescribable sense of achievement. Only I knew how hard it had been. There were times when I had wanted to stop and completion became mind over matter. As mission control told the crew of Apollo 13, ‘Failure is not an option.’ While the course had been a test of physical endurance, it was mental endurance that kept me going to the end. What lessons were learnt?
We all meet challenges through life and our self-dialogue will strongly influence the end result. We take too much notice of negative voices telling us that we can’t do something, are a failure or not good enough. We need to deafen them with positive voices reminding us of previous challenges, when we had not given up. Memories of driving abroad and getting stranded on a cliff, provided personal motivation. Once, in a workshop exercise, a participant gave an illustration of standing by a temperamental photo copier and not giving up. Use whatever works.
Healthy minds respond to being stretched at every age. A sense of achievement will only come by stepping out of comfort zones. Doing what we’re good at is not a challenge and it doesn’t have to be physical or big. We can surprise ourselves and others. Like children, small steps lead to greater confidence. We never stopped learning as children and learning how to fail too. Children will try again, until at some point in life, memories of past failure can hijack the present. Then we either don’t do something or give up early. It will compound those negative feelings.
The experience had been exhilarating. What next?
“Alleged ‘impossibilities’ are opportunities for our capacities to be stretched.”
Charles R Swindoll.