“Is this your first time rock climbing?”
That was the question an experienced climber asked me when my friend and I were getting ready to climb at Otter Cliffs in Acadia National Park over Labor Day weekend.
It was not my first time climbing. I’ve been climbing now for over 10 years. But in that moment, getting ready to be lowered into what seemed to me like a really angry ocean, hearing the waves crush, I behaved as if I had never climbed in my life. I was about to get out of my comfort zone and I felt afraid. For some reason, I am fine with climbing over rocks; climbing over a raging ocean, on the other hand, not so much fun.
As often happens when I am hanging above a large body of water, a few important insights came to mind.
- You don’t have to climb Everest to get out of your comfort zone. As a coach, I often encourage students to get out of their comfort zones, do something that scares them, and learn and grow in the process. At Carey, we offer experiential learning trips to foster competencies employers value. What my experience in Acadia showed me, however, is that it’s important to pay attention to what one’s comfort zone is. For some, climbing and kayaking take them out of their comfort zones; for others, choosing a different route to school/work is as far away from comfort as it gets.
- It’s important to stretch yourself, even within an activity you consider very much a comfort zone. In Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, Adam Grant encourages readers to immerse themselves in a new domain in order to become originals. That new domain could be a new job, a new culture, or a new task. As I found out in Maine, it could also be a different context of an activity I’d normally consider my comfort zone.
So how did I end up climbing above the Atlantic ocean? Twice, in fact? I remembered another useful nugget from Grant’s book: instead of trying to calm myself down, as I heard the waves behind me, I got excited. And I mean, really excited.
I might have even yelled, “This is awesome!”