Because it's your life! Because it's your life! Because it's your life! Because it's your life! Because it's your life!
Life and career coaching by Joan Steidl Life and career coaching by Joan Steidl Life and career coaching by Joan Steidl Life and career coaching by Joan Steidl
Thought for the Week

Zipping Through Life

I shouldn’t admit this, but I’m a coward. Well, at least when I think life or limbs may be in jeopardy.

So imagine my terror when a friend invited me to do the zipline course located in southeast Ohio’s majestic Hocking Hills. My initial response? “No way. I’d like to see my next birthday!” A bit overly dramatic? Perhaps, but an honest reaction at that.

Then the gnawing voice began. “Well, Joan. You ask others to step outside their comfort zone. Why shouldn’t you? Afraid to walk the talk?” So, with a great deal of fear and trepidation I agreed to try the zipline.

The big day came. As I sat there reading the required catastrophic-sounding-release form I heard thunder. Because thunder, lightening, and steel cables, just don’t mix I was sure they’d cancel our group. Well, the zipline gods and goddesses were not going to let me off the hook – no pun intended - so easily. The storm passed. Our group was told “it’s a go.” The choice was now back in my lap: to zip or not? I (reluctantly) decided to go.

If you’re expecting a happy ending to this story don’t hold your breath. It’s not a happy ending it’s an exhilarating one!!!! I had the time of my life and learned a few life lessons – applicable to work, play, or home – all while zipping. Lessons learned:

Make Informed Decisions – Then Go For It. Always know what the risks are before starting any venture. Do your due diligence. Though the release form created a do-I-still-have-time-to-write-my-last-will-and-testament-because-I-may-not-get-out-of-this-alive reaction, the risks were clear. Before any new venture weigh the pros and cons. Know your personal comfort zone. Is this is the time to move beyond it or not? What are the costs - personally, emotionally, financially, physically, or spiritually – if you don’t? Then make your informed decision, give it your all, and then trust the process.

Details Count. The tour leaders constantly checked to make certain we were properly roped in to ensure our safety. They didn’t check once or twice. They checked every single time – for a total of 22 times – we began or concluded a zip. In this case, details were critical in order to avoid serious injury. In your own life pay attention to the details that matter. But know when it’s OK to lighten up and let go of your perfectionist tendencies.

Keep Your Eyes On The Horizon. Look down while suspended mid-air zipping along at 20 miles per hour, or while walking across a suspended bridge, and even the most seasoned zip line enthusiast – or someone with occasional bouts of vertigo – will develop a real case of nausea. Like life, it’s best to keep our eyes on where you’re headed. Don’t waste precious life energy looking down or behind you. If you do, you’re likely to get sick.

Get Started And Then Enjoy The Ride. The most unnerving part of the courses was the 10 different times one stood on the platform right before the zip and had to make the decision, yet again, to push off or not. But once you kicked off and zipped, soaring amongst the tree tops, you couldn’t help but wonder why you even hesitated to begin. How often we procrastinate in life because of our fear of getting started. Once you know what you need to do – do it. Keeping promises to yourself is the way to increase self-esteem and confidence. Hooting and hollering while zipping eased any fear or stress to make it the ride of a lifetime. In your day-to-day life, when you become fearful or stressed, hoot and holler! Find healthy, fun stress-busters – like watching a funny movie, taking a walk, calling a friend, reading a great book, dancing to your favorite tunes, deep breathing - that will you give you the energy to get started and to keep going. So when all is said and done you can look back and say “yep, I started out afraid and stressed. But once I got going it really wasn’t that bad and I had fun along the way.”

Don’t Brake Too Soon – But Do Brake All good zips must end. Zipping towards the next platform, the guide was always there to hand signal when it was time to start braking so you could gracefully end the zip. Brake too soon? You wouldn't make it to the platform and then have to manually pull yourself in – exhausting work and not much fun. Forget to brake? Ouch! You’re going to slam right into the platform and tree. Braking is both skill and art. In life, we need to know when to brake. If we give up too quickly and easily, we put a brake on our dreams and goals and never arrive to our destination. Other times, it’s good to brake. We need to take the time to slow down, to reevaluate, to catch our breath, to ponder our next move so we can ultimately reach our goals. And it’s always good to pause and relish and be grateful for all that we did accomplish.

Trying To Control Is Exhausting. One of the secrets of enjoying the zip is relaxing in the harness and simply allowing the zip line to carry you across. In other words, let the line do the work. At one point the guide pointed out that I wasn’t really relaxing in the harness. Instead, I was trying to hold myself up. “You’re going to be exhausted by the end of the course if you keep that up,” she advised. In this case, the line represents life. How often do we spend emotional and physical energy resisting life? We don’t allow it to unfold as it is unfolding. Instead, we spend a great deal of time, and emotional, physical and spiritual energy trying to control every aspect – to the minutia - of life. Perhaps much of our stress, exhaustion, and even anxiety are due to our insistence that we will control people and situations that we simply cannot control. When we become overly controlling – usually because of our fear - we miss many of the simple pleasures, delights, and joys life freely offers us. Today, challenge yourself to loosen your grip. Allow life to carry you. When you do, you’ll find the ride called life much more relaxing and less exhausting.

You Need Others To Bring Out The Best You. The leaders kept us safe and helped to ease our fears. The other participants – aged 50 to 70 – encouraged and praised one another, cheered one another on as we zipped from platform to platform. When someone’s fear of continuing began to rear its ugly head, members of the group quickly helped the person overcome their fear so they could courageously and joyfully continue the course. Everyone believed in everyone else. In life, you need others to support and encourage you as you work to become your personal best.

Think about the zipline. Ask yourself are you willing to allow others to encourage and support you? What fears hold you back from enjoying and living life fully? What part of your comfort zone needs to be stretched? Today make a decision to face your fears, to move beyond your comfort zone, and then relax and trust the process. Doing so may very well add some much deserved zip to your life – which you deserve because, after all, it is your life.