We are sometimes faced with a situation we did not plan, our worst nightmare come true. I want to tell you about my experience on a trekking trip to the top of Mount Aconcagua. It is not about overcoming the fear of heights, but, to share how I learned that it is our response to these situations that will determine how it will affect us.
This could not be happening to me! I must be having a bad dream! I will wake up soon in my warm comfortable sheets and it will all be over. I never woke up! I was not dreaming! This was real! I was on the edge of the mountain and expected to get across. How did this happen? The sales clerk did not tell me it would be like this. I would have never taken this trip had I known. He recommended this trekking trip for beginners with no prior experience.
The climb started off smooth. We were a group of five including the guide and my 17 year old niece. It was a peaceful, relaxing atmosphere. All was great until we were about half way up and suddenly took a sharp turn.
Now, I was standing on a path alongside a thirty foot cliff. It was so narrow that I could only place one foot at a time on the ground. Every step was a crucial one, one false move would send me off the side. I could feel my heart beating in my throat. My legs started to tremble, my mouth was dry. I analyzed my surroundings; maybe I could make my way back to the refuge. All around me there was nothing but mountains. No signs of civilization. I would surely get lost if I turned back. How was I going to get out of this? To make matters worse, it started raining. Great! Now I was cold, my shoes were wet, and the rocks were moist from the rain. In desperation, I thought of asking the guide if someone could come get me by helicopter, there was no way I could do this! I was falling behind, I asked the others to stop for a drink of water to buy some time and try to get myself together. My inner voice was telling me “you are never going to make it, if you keep going, you will get dizzy, trip and fall off this mountain”.
Just then, my niece turned to me and said “isn’t this the most beautiful sight you have ever seen? Are you ready to continue, I can’t wait to get to the top”. I was taken in by her energy and her eagerness to get to the top. Up until now I had not even looked around me… I hadn’t even noticed the beautiful scenery! All of a sudden I became curious, what would it feel like to be standing on the top of this mountain. I want to know! I had come this far, nothing bad has happened. This time my inner voice was encouraging me, “you can do this, you are missing out on an adventure of a lifetime! You need to capture the beauty of this mountain. Stop thinking about all the things that could go wrong!”. My niece had inspired me! I realized that the reason she was enjoying this trip was because she did not have fear stopping her. I wanted to feel the same determination and excitement about reaching the top. My curiosity got the best of me. “I am ready, let’s go” I shouted back.
It was not easy to completely let go of my fear. Carefully, making sure my foot was completely grounded before taking another step without looking down. With each step I took, I grew more confident; each step seemed to get easier.
As we continued our climb, I faced other challenges. I was not at the point of being adventurous enough to climb down some of the flat surfaced slippery rocks on foot. However, I no longer felt paralyzed with fear! I no longer wanted a helicopter to come get me! I got creative, squatted and went down the rocks on my bum. So it was bumpy and wet, at least I got down in one piece. It was exciting to be able to face challenges and search for ways to get past them. Soon, I gained enough confidence to advance to the front of the line right behind the guide. Watching her, I learned some of her techniques. The way she placed her foot, slightly pointing outward actually prevented slipping. Going up slightly diagonally, reduced the falling sensation in the pit of my stomach. I was on fire, although the climb was just as difficult, it felt easier.
I was on top of the world, in the middle of a big heavy cloud, overlooking all of Mendoza. We had reached the top.
My initial response in this situation was fear of falling, I was not confident that I could actually get to the top. I thought of every possible bad thing that could happen. In essence, I become my worst enemy. As soon as I shifted my response to curiosity, I started visualizing myself at the top. This thought brought an excitement, which lead to being creative and gain confidence to keep going till I reached my end goal. In doing so, not only did I enjoy my adventure, I feel I can take on other adventures. It helped me to gain the courage I needed to let go of everything and follow my dream.
The unknown is a major source of our fear. You imagine the outcome to be a lot worse that it actually is. By analyzing the given situation and making plans to move forward, you will begin to gain confidence. Feeling sorry for yourself, complaining about it will keep you stagnant and will not change the situation. In taking action, you will gain knowledge and experience. There is a first time for everything, start off with small steps, you will gain confidence to control your fear and realize your full potential. Each fall along the way is part of learning and an opportunity to grow. Remember when you first learned to ride a bike, how many times did you fall? Did you give up? Why did you keep on trying?
If you know someone who is going through a difficult situation, share this post with them, encourage them to keep going forward, they will prevail in the end and become stronger!
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