Comfort Zone Be Gone

A few years back, I visited Miraval Resort and Spa –- a beautiful, luxury destination that focuses on physical, emotional, and spiritual health. I knew, in planning my trip, that I wanted to test my limits.

The most obvious test came when I decided to tackle The Climbing Wall, one of Miraval’s Challenge Course activities -– an outdoor wall that’s meant to mimic rock climbing. Standing back from the wall and looking at it as a whole, it looked relatively easy -– despite the 32-foot height (gulp!). OK. Yup, I see pegs that I can stand on and hold, foot holes in the wall where I can step. So it’s just a different kind of ladder. No big deal.

There I am, all geared up, on belay and ready to go. I start my ascent. I climb with such grace and ease –- for the first three feet or so. I now find myself right up against the wall, only able to see the pegs and foot holes directly in front of me. Hmmm. Talk about not being able to see the forest for the trees. Yeah, yeah, I get the metaphor.

So here I am, in a pretty vulnerable position (not a comfortable state for me!), hanging from a rope, held by a complete stranger –- who, by the way, is acting as a belayer for the first time in her life -– and I must trust those on the ground to tell me where to step next. Oh, yeah, great idea, Kerri. You couldn’t have just challenged yourself to get an extra massage today?

I continue my ascent, ever so s-l-o-w-l-y, where I then reach a point where I feel like I can go no further. No, literally. I can’t see any nearby peg or foot hole to go after. Ohhh, so here’s the trust part. Yuk. The helpful classmates on the ground below are doing their best to convince me that there is a peg right at my left knee, and if I can shift my weight and push myself up by my right leg, while simultaneously reaching for a hole above my head, I can get my left foot on that invisible peg. Did those instructions sound unclear to you? Try being the one on the wall! Here I am contemplating my next move:

“No,” I say. “This is it for me. I can’t go any further.”

“Are you sure?” says Jim, the really wonderful instructor (truly).

I pause. “OK, that pause tells me you’d like to keep going,” Jim says.

Damn pause.

I stand still for a moment, doing some deep breathing on Jim’s suggestion. “Just try it, Kerri,” I tell myself. “Just give it a shot.” OK, here I go… Shift my weight, push up with my right foot, reach, and….. I slip right off the wall.

The good news? The rookie belayer doesn’t let me plummet to my death. The other good news? I now have solid evidence that I can trust her. I’m now more determined than ever to try that next step again.

I get myself to the same spot and get really quiet. I breathe and start pumping myself up in my head. “I’m not giving up. I’ll get to that peg I can’t see. I’m not leaving this wall until I do.” I make the move again and find my footing weak, so come back to position. I pause for just a second or two and lunge once again. I shift, I push, I reach and … I did it! Everyone down below cheers. I feel fantastic! I both can and can’t believe I really did it.

Although this was the end of my climb (I was physically and emotionally exhausted), I got to the point on the wall that was my minimum goal, so I was pretty darn impressed with myself.

Jeanette (aka, “the rookie belayer”) eases me down off my perch until I’m safely back on the ground. High fives all around as Jim says “So what did you learn up there?” The first thing that comes out of my mouth is, “Well, I can push myself further than I thought I could.”

“That’s great,” Jim says. “I encourage you to remember that statement in all areas of your life.”

And I do. Whether it’s during a workout on the elliptical or taking the risk to deepen a friendship by bringing conversations beyond chit chat, I try and remember to challenge myself to step out of my comfort zone because the feeling on the other side is always worth it.