I was all harnessed up and clipped into the cables at the new Adventure Park Nashville when it was time to step out onto my first tree-to-tree bridge element.
I paused for a second and thought, there’s no way I can do this. It seemed not only uncomfortable but also scary.
In the past, I’ve had no fear of learning how to climb at various climbing gyms. I’ve never minded the heights and always loved getting to the top for the sense of accomplishment and so I could repel down (my favorite part!).
But this was different.
Instead of looking at the holds right in front of me or looking up to where I was going, I had to look DOWN to see where and how to get my footing. This made me realize how far off the ground I was. Also, when climbing walls or rocks, they don’t sway and move like the bridge elements do.
This was a whole new experience for me.
Trying Melts Away Fear
I was tempted to turn back before I’d even started. But, I knew I would not be happy with myself if I did.
I had to at least give it a try.
Besides I’m always preaching to my clients about doing things that take them out of their comfort zone, and I also live my life that way as much as possible. This was another reason why I couldn’t turn back.
After taking the first step, my fear melted away and I completely forgot about the distance between the ground and me.
I just took my time and put one foot in front of the other.
When I reached the end of the first bridge element, I became a little more confident. I did it!
Mindfulness: Learning to Live in the Moment
Even though there were several elements ahead of me, I had to take each of them one at a time, asking myself what’s the best way to get across without losing my balance.
My confidence grew and grew after successfully completing each element.
While working my way across one bridge, I couldn’t think about the next bridge. I had to stay focused on the moment. It’s the simple practice known as mindfulness.
This was an unexpected lesson, and also the biggest take away from the experience.
I never went into it thinking I’d learn mindfulness. I just thought it’d be fun to do something new and to be outside in nature.
But it was a lesson I really needed because I’m the type of person who’s always thinking ahead and planning ahead.
For instance, I eat dinner with the question bouncing around in my head, “What do I want to make for dinner tomorrow night?” instead of just enjoying the meal right in front of me.
I need to practice mindfulness and live in the moment more often.
Not only for my own benefit but also because I want to serve as a positive example for my clients.
Avoid Thinking Too Far Ahead to the “What ifs?”
So many of my clients are facing career changes and life transitions.
They know they have some bridges to cross, whether it means moving from one career to another, moving from working for someone else to working for themselves, etc.
For them moving from one stage to the next can seem scary and nearly impossible at first.
The path to get from one stage to the next can appear very unstable. It may not be clear to them how they should proceed or what step they should take first.
They often start thinking ahead to the “What ifs?”
Instead of focusing on what’s within their control at this very moment, they’re asking:
- “What if I don’t fit in with the people at a new company?”
- “What if I’m not as successful in a new industry?”
- “If my business idea fails what will I do?”
Gaining Stability in Your Career Transitions
What I quickly realized with each bridge element was what appeared to be “unstable” was actually very stable, especially when I did my part to make things more stable.
I wasn’t going to be able to keep the elements from swaying and moving. But, if I:
- slowed down and focused on one element at a time,
- kept a light grip on the cable so my hands could easily slide as I moved,
- put one foot in front of the other while positioning my feet in a way that kept me balanced,
- and shifted my body weight so it was working with the movement of the elements instead of against them,
I was able to get across a lot easier.
And if I happened to slip or lose my balance, my harness would keep me from falling.
It would’ve been a small failure, but it wouldn’t have been the end of the world.
How to Get to the Other Side Successfully
If you’re facing a career transition and it seems scary trying to cross over to what’s next for you, remember these four things:
1. Embrace mindfulness and learn to live in the moment.
Embrace your current situation no matter how scary, uncomfortable or unstable it may appear.
Relish this time to re-evaluate your approach to things, to try different strategies, or to learn something new.
Don’t rush through this stage to the next one just because it’s uncomfortable. Doing so could cause some slip-ups that will likely slow you down instead.
Just stay focused on the present as you put one foot in front of the other.
2. Keep a light grip.
Instead of keeping a tight grip on your idea of how you think things should be or should work out, loosen your grip.
You’d be surprised at how much easier you’ll be able to navigate through your situation when you allow some flexibility in your results.
And you’ll be open to opportunities you otherwise would’ve quickly dismissed.
3. Be willing to make a shift when necessary.
If you’re stuck, be honest with yourself and admit you’re stuck.
Then, take steps to shift your approach so you can become unstuck.
This may mean asking for help or hiring a career coach to point out any blind spots or to show you a more effective way of getting across your bridge. A career coach can also teach you how to work with your unique challenges instead of against them.
4. Rely on your support system.
These are the people who aren’t going to let you fall even if you slip up or lose your balance. This can include your family, friends, professional network, career coach, etc.