Last week, we took a family road trip out to Yellowstone, something I have dreamed about doing since I was a little girl. It lived up to the hype. When you spend 10 days in a car with your family and drive more than 4,000 miles together across the country, you learn a lot about yourself as a human and a leader.
We tried new things like white water rafting and intense hiking down canyons and hot springs. My favorite experience was the zip line. I have a fear of heights, and while this was not my idea of fun, it was the family favorite.
Here is what I learned from this scary, yet successful experience:
Fear is a mindset. Terrified of heights, being up 100 feet in the air on a swaying platform is my worst nightmare. At first, I hugged the middle pole and gripped my harness tightly, fearing the worst. Yet, once I was able to look around and see the beautiful surroundings and my smiling family, I was able to release the fear. Most people fear public speaking. As a speaker, I have overcome that fear, yet heights continue to be my nemesis. Releasing the fear and embracing the positives is a choice. It is a mindset, even if just for a few hours. I could have chosen to be miserable and let fear take over. Instead, I parked the fear and chose to embrace the experience. While I am still not a fan of heights, this small win helped me understand the power I had within.
Early success and failure is good. Our first run was smooth and easy. I was able to get my feet wet and release the fear. I was proud of my semi-smooth landing and ability to relax and enjoy the views. The second run was not smooth. I actually missed the rope to pull myself back onto the platform and slid back along the wire into the valley, stopped hundreds of feet above the ground all by myself. Our guide had to tow me in. I was so happy to be on that shaky platform again. While it was important to have an early win, the early failure helped me more. It helped me realize that if that was the worst that could happen, I had nothing to fear. The early successes and failures helped me manage my emotions and build confidence in the subsequent runs.
New experiences broaden your thinking. I loved meeting people out West so different than those in the Midwest where I call home. Our guides lived in vans on the river all summer and entertained us with their wisdom and stories. When you put yourself out there and do something you have not done before, you stretch your mind and open yourself up to more new experiences longer term. I normally would have declined offers to do anything heights related, yet this experience will make me think the next time before saying no. Our brains are wired to routine thinking. By pushing ourselves to embrace new experiences, our brains create new pathways to other parts of our brains that enable better creative thinking and problem solving.
I got out of my comfort zone, and took some much deserved me time this summer. This investment in myself, my family, and my health will refuel my energy for the rest of 2017. And I need the energy. I am excited that we have a new book on #maleallies and #genderequality coming this fall, and we are thrilled at the lineup of amazing speaking engagements and workshops with #womeninleadership. If you have not taken some time off for yourself and/or family, do it. Women that #practiceselfcare are more successful. We have to fill our tanks first before we are able to fill the tanks of others around us.