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To Do The Hard Stuff, We Must Dare to Leave Our Comfort Zones

December 3rd, 2012

I am a life and leadership coach. A person hires me to help her/him do hard stuff, to make difficult change in the interest of living her/his most epic life. I love that this is why people hire me. It’s one of the main reasons I became a life coach — to “dare” people to do things that scare them and that are difficult, but that will cause them to become more.

Angels Landing, a hike that includes 1,500-foot dropoffs during the last half mile, is not for the faint of heart.

Change and growth only happen when we dare to leave our comfort zones.

At Epic Life, I offer clients who are interested, an opportunity to join me on a guided epic outdoor adventure. Check out this Zion women’s hiking adventure trip planned for May 16-19.

In addition, I’m partnering with the National Outdoor Leadership School to provide a 6-day epic backpacking expedition, called “Epic Women,” in my back yard, the Wind Rivers of Wyoming. In addition, I am permitted to guide clients on hikes in Grand Canyon and Zion national parks. (For more about this Epic Women expedition/program, NOLS published this article about the adventure.)

Zion is one of my favorite places in the world. If you’ve been there, I am sure you agree with me. It is a magical place. There are several hikes in Zion that serve as relevant metaphors for clients hiring me to do things outside of their comfort zone.

There are chains on Angels Landing, which are much appreciated.

One such hike is Angels Landing. It’s a short, hard hike — five miles roundtrip, with 1,500′ of elevation gain. What makes it epic are not its distance and ascent, but rather its heights and exposure. With its narrow ridge and 1,500-foot dropoffs on either side of you as you ascend its last half mile, the hike is not for the faint of heart.

Which is why it’s a perfect experience for my clients.

There are chains to hold on to as you ascend and descend Angels Landing. Even if you’re not afraid of heights chances are you’ll have a white knuckle grip on the chains, because the “What ifs” are all too clear (glaring).

What I’ve found is that the same emotions and behaviors that often occur during an epic hike or wilderness expedition are the same ones that occur in the front country — at home or at work. These are the emotions that, when triggered, try to keep us safe and out of harm’s way. They are the emotions that instruct us, “What if…,” or “Hold on tight,” or “No way,” or “I don’t want to,” or “It’s too scary,” or “I can’t,” or “I will make a fool out of myself,” and the list goes on, of very compelling, reasonable reasons we should guard the status quo and stay where we’re at — and to not dare to go beyond it.

Hugging the wall. Or, holding on for dear life.

Practicing doing uncomfortable things and going beyond our normal ways is valuable in our effort to discover, and live, our best life. Experiencing a guided epic hike with me/Epic Life is one way to practice doing this work, while also enjoying an unforgettable adventure and scenery that inspires for a lifetime. But you don’t have to hire me to do this work. I dare you to think of something you want to do, but are afraid to do, and then do it. Start with something small and keep practicing. This type of practice has the potential to lead to huge change.

[NOTE: To those who may respond to this post by saying, "But I don't want to risk my life!" I would say this: I'm not looking to be reckless. In fact, I'm here to help you reclaim your life, and in some cases, to help you save your life.]

Finally, as if the scenery on my recent Zion trip wasn’t enough, my friends and I got this amazing sight of a California condor. This is a rare and magnificent bird that is gradually making a comeback. The bird’s wing span is almost 10 feet! Enjoy, and thanks for reading/watching.

California condor flying over Angels Landing:

  • Cool post Shelli! Awesome pix!

    Ok, now for the comfort thing: there is a mound of scientific data from studies that validates the fact that little or no learning takes place from a place of comfort. Consider the [surprise]: a surprise is when you “didnt see that one coming”….when your ‘working model of reality’ was not working very well at all !

    Surprises are often unpleasant….uncomfortable….and not usually found in our “comfort zone”.

    Challenge: when is the last time you experienced a REAL surprise in your comfort zone? Seldom if ever right ??!

    All surprises are a place where something is actually gets LEARNED. Often the best learning comes from being at the edge of chaos. OUTSIDE the ‘zone of comfort’. Far away from it actually !

    It’s good to have a tour guide and confidant with you when you go there. A master…a coach….someone who has actually DONE IT and can explain it. A good teacher.

    Daniel Mezick
    http://www.TheCultureGame.com

  • Jenni says:

    Shelli this is a great article! I am so looking forward to joining you on the “Epic Women” adventure in August. I must admit in the short time frame that I have known you and the discussions we have shared so far- i couldn’t agree with you more; once we really start living outside of our box- then we really start living! Thanks for helping me take the walls down and reclaim my life Shelli! I look forward to exploring more with you!

  • Kathy says:

    Like you’ve said before, life begins where our comfort zone ends. Most of my most enjoyable moments in the past have been when I am very uncomfortable, both physically and emotionally. Thank you for all you continue to teach, model, and inspire.

  • Well said Shelli! I think that once we get in the practice of being outside our comfort zone it becomes a new normal and new worlds open up in unexpected places. Once you learn to say, “what the heck, I have nothing to lose!” you have everything to gain. And there’s nothing like sharing these experiences with close and crazy friends…

  • Roxanne says:

    Shelli-

    Well stated as always. I’m so looking forward to the Epic Women adventure next year and working with you to set the course for my Epic Life! I resist being outside of my comfort zone, but recognize that it’s where the real growth happens – so am pushing myself (with your help) to go outside of my comfort zone! I look forward to 2013!!

    Very cool video :-)

    Best,
    Roxanne

  • Totally agree, Shelli. I know you do your work because you understand that this philosophy applies to all aspects of life, personal or professional. The greatest emotional rewards are usually earned through succeeding in the hardest emotional struggles, whether climbing a mountain, raising kids, in a marriage–think of something that’s one of the best parts of your life and you will find that it takes a lot of work. I try to spend a lot of time outdoors with my kids so that they learn that lesson and apply it to their lives. Thanks for this story.

  • Leann says:

    I enjoyed your article, Shelli. With our busy lives it can be so easy to avoid those challenges that make us feel good about ourselves. I think the healthy risk taking behaviors you are talking about extend to all facets of my life. You always seem to put something out there just when I need to hear it. Thanks again.

  • Holly Copeland says:

    So well said, as always, Shelli. I’m struck with how alive I feel when out of my comfort zone, like walking on the edge of that cliff with you last week on a crispy predawn 20 degree morning in Zion! It continually amazes me how just 2 days of these kinds of experiences pulls me out of both my physical comfort zone, but also remembering the power of being in wild places that never cease to awaken me with gratitude, peacefulness, and a renewed sense of purpose. Thank you for all you do to help get us all “out there” to bring all of this to the fore.

  • Eric Olsen says:

    Hey Shellie! Im thinking about a gift for Tami’s Birthday? this is to be a suprise if possible

  • [...] read about one of the hikes, check this out. The cost is just $1,000 per person, and includes 3 nights of lodging near Zion and 3 epic [...]

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