Life’s Obstacle Course

A couple of weeks ago my best friend and I competed in the Krell Adventure games. Krell is another in the mix of recently popular races that take you in the woods to complete a series of obstacles and challenges in a time bound period. It’s different from other races in the fact that it includes both physical and mental challenges. More like the show Survivor – without eating bugs. It’s also a paired team race.

When she first approached me to do the race – my initial reaction was an adamant “NO”. Why would I possibly want to throw myself in the mud to do a bunch of crazy obstacles that looked hard? No thank you. Not my thing I thought.

I could tell she was disappointed in my response and continued to sell me on it. She just recently got back into exercising and was really motivated to set a stretch goal for herself. And then she said the words. “You are the only person I can imagine doing this with”.

Pause.

That’s when I realized that my visceral “no” to the race was because I was SCARED. What if I could not do it? What if I did not have the strength or the endurance? What if I failed? I had summer camp flashbacks of being left behind and being made fun of by the other kids. But who better than to help me overcome my fears than my best friend? I needed her as much as she needed me……. So we signed up as TEAM ROAR and paid the registration fee.

And then something shifted in the way I looked at this challenge. You see as an A type, I am naturally drawn to competition and trying to win. Gold stars and pats on the back make me happy. But “competing” in this race was not about winning or external recognition. Not even close. Our participation was about pushing ourselves outside our comfort zone. It was about tapping into an inner strength that we wanted to fuel — an inner strength that could help us face some of life’s real obstacles.

Here are just a couple of the B-life lessons I learned along the way:

LIFE WILL REVEAL ITSELF

There are so many times I get stuck in my head on something because I fear the unknown. I play out all the possibilities and scenarios of how things might go in an effort to overcome uncertainty. Yet the reality is that I can’t control the future no matter how much thinking I do. The race really helped me put this principle to the test because it’s designed to have the obstacle course revealed when you show up.

The night before the race my best friend and I (both nervous) tried to plan out
different ways we would approach mapping our route. When we showed up at the start line and received the list of obstacles we had to completely scrap our13347016_10154103967805985_5997990767990012564_n
plans. We did not plan for the scenario in the form it was presented in. Yet – we successfully quickly adjusted in the moment.

Lesson learned – I can’t plan everything. I do not know what life will reveal. Be in the moment and trust myself to have the ability to respond to what is in front of me.

ONE STEP AT TIME, SLOW AND STEADY

One of the obstacles involved using two wooden crates as a means to move us forward 25 meters. The rules were that we both needed to be on a crate at the same time before moving to the next crate. Way harder than we anticipated. We would get started and into a groove. One throwing the crate with her foot while the other using her outstretched arm to help the other across. Eager to finish the short FullSizeRender (7)distance we would begin to go faster, fall and then have to start over. It was frustrating (and at times funny as evidenced by the picture). I can’t remember how many times we had to start over. And then the volunteer gave us a piece of advice ‘One step at a time, slow and steady’. Those words were enormous. We realized we both were so intent on getting to the end we would wind up rushing, losing our focus and fumbling. When we finally did pay attention to just taking the next step forward we successfully finished the challenge.

I can’t tell you how many times this translates into my personal life. It’s easy for me to get overwhelmed when I think about all of my responsibilities and never ending to do list. It seems like I will never get to the end. I wind up trying to do too much at once and spiral instead of moving forward. But what if instead of focusing on the end I just took one step forward, slow and steady?

IT’S WORSE IN MY HEAD

Leading up to the race I was nervous. I imagined all sorts of crazy obstacles that would be extremely hard and challenging. I would get on the Krell website and examine pictures of past races. I told myself — those people looked a lot tougher than me. The morning of the race my best friend and I made a pact that our goal was to finish 5 out of the 20 obstacles. Our result ………13 obstacles completed!

13321888_10154103984450985_1659851269772594543_n

In reality, the race was not as bad as I had pictured in my head. And isn’t that usually the case? We think something is going to be a lot worse than it really is. Our minds have an amazing capacity to make up stories that are far from reality. One phrase that has helped me manage uncertainty and sort truth from illusion is “the story I am telling myself is ____”. That way I am able to detach and observe the thought as simply a thought – not reality.

MY BEST FRIEND IS ALWAYS WITH ME

This race was an amazing experience to share with my best friend. We lifted each other up, encouraged each other and pushed ourselves to do something bigger than ourselves. Yet I do not need a grand gesture of an adventure race to experience these things. Life is a series of facing fears and unknowns. And there are many times my best friend will not literally be next me to help me overcome one of life’s obstacles. Yet figuratively she is always with me. I have the ability to channel her voice when I am scared. To offer myself encouragement. To lift myself up. And to push myself to do something bigger than myself.

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