We’re on vacation in Hawaii and I overhear my husband making reservations for a zipline tour for him and our daughter. He says, “So we’ll be on the tour for 3½ hours? Will there be some place comfortable for my wife to sit while she waits for us?” My first thought is: “how considerate of him.” My second thought is: “why would he assume I wouldn’t want to go?” Very likely because, after 20+ years of marriage he knows full well that I am afraid of heights, I will go far out of my way to avoid steep escalators, and I am nowhere near the outdoor adventurer that he is.
Giving it some thought after he hangs up, I timidly broach the subject: “I might like to join you.” I post to Facebook: “To zipline or not to zipline?” Several encouraging comments come back quickly. I decide the “bragging rights” will be worth it and dial the zipline company to add myself to the reservation. Being a coach to the core, I am acutely aware of my thoughts and feelings, pre-, present-, and post-experience. Here are a few insights and takeaways:
1. A good guide is worth his weight in gold. Meet Matt and Adam, our zipline guides. If I had to guess their Myers-Briggs type, I’d say ESFP. Perfectly suited to their jobs, they are extroverted, facile at handling the harnesses and carabiners, very attuned to making sure everyone was comfortable and having fun, and the quintessential laid-back, hang-loose, islander attitude. Within 10 minutes, they had everyone laughing and confident, despite the uncertainties that lay ahead.
Coaching takeaway: Tackling new territory? Find a coach, consultant, mentor, advocate, etc. to “hold your hand.” Who do you need to ask for help? Don’t delay. And don’t go it alone!
2. At some point you have to stop preparing and start doing. I was diligent in my preparation. I read the Big Island Eco Adventures (BIEA) website word-for-word on what to expect, wore my knee-length pants and close-toed shoes as recommended, and visualized myself at the end, unscathed, successful, and happy. It reminded me of the old saying, “1 for the money, 2 for the show, 3 to get ready, and 4 to go.” Unfortunately, most people perseverate on number 3 (1 for the money, 2 for the show, 3 to get ready, 3 to get ready, 3 to get ready, 3 to get ready). At some point, you have to just do it and step out into thin air.
Coaching takeaway: Where in your life do you need to stop “getting ready” and start “doing”? As they say on the zipline platform, feel the fear and do it anyway!
3. Relax, and you won’t get hurt. Here’s a picture of my right arm a few hours after the ziplines. A few days later, it looks like I’ve been shooting up heroin. The reason my right arm is so bruised is that I was clutching the strap that connected my harness to the carabiner on the zipline, while my left arm was free to hold my iPhone and take video. The truth is, I didn’t have to cling to the strap at all. The harness and carabiner do all the work. You could let go with both hands and be completely safe!
Coaching takeaway: What do you need to loosen your grip on? What will it take to let go? What might open up for you when you do?
4. Watch out for emotional hijacking. Truthfully, the ziplines were a piece of cake for me in comparison to walking the swinging rope bridge that spanned 200 feet. Before I started out on the rope bridge, I told my guide, Adam, that I would stop and take a photo of the beautiful waterfall that was half-way across. But that didn’t happen. Once I ventured out and could see the hundreds of feet of empty airspace below my feet, my heart-rate skyrocketed. I had to inch my way across, carefully sliding my hands along the cable side-railing and never letting go. Matt noticed I hadn’t stopped to take the waterfall picture, and he called me on it. I yelled back, “I’m too scared.” He yelled something back, but my brain couldn’t understand it because I was in survival mode. And yet, his voice was enough to calm me down, and I did pause long enough to snap a few pics. (Yes, that’s my thumb in the photo—it’s the best I could do while in near-panic mode!) Without Adam’s voice making its way into my consciousness, without a reminder of what I really wanted out of this experience, I would have stayed in “hijack” mode.
Coaching takeaway: When you’re in an emotionally charged state, your brain’s amygdala takes over and shifts you into fight-flight-freeze mode. To help you survive, it hijacks resources from the brain’s executive function—the part of the brain that can see opportunities and options and solutions. I call this hijacking the “downward spiral.” We see it happen with job seekers who panic on important interviews; we see it in ourselves when we’re trying to close a sale with an important client; we see it in others when they are fearful of not getting their important needs met.
The next time you feel emotionally hijacked, heading into the downward spiral, use this four-part model to help re-engage your brain’s executive function: 1. Notice it (the fear/anxiety/panic). 2. Name it (label it). 3. Refocus it (focus on what you want). 4. Sustain it (repeat/reiterate what you want).
5. It’s no big deal, after the fact. Seriously, it was a big deal at the time (check out my video here—you’ll see that it was a big deal to me at the time [just turn down your speakers because my involuntary screaming does go on for a bit!]). But now that I’ve lived through it, it doesn’t seem so big. In fact, I’d do a zipline with BIEA again in a heartbeat, which makes me wonder . . .
Coaching takeaway: What are you hesitant to do that, after having done it, will feel like “no big deal?” What would stretching beyond your comfort zone now open up for you in the future?
Aloha, dear friends and colleagues!
Interested in learning more of these types of techniques? Our next Certified Career Management Coach program starts Tuesday, September 18. Don’t miss it!
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