Last summer, a gym friend of mine mentioned that she had always wanted to complete the “Rim-to-Rim” hike in the Grand Canyon (an epic Grand Canyon hike, where you leave from the North Kaibab Trail on the North Rim, descend 14.3 miles and 6,000 feet to the bottom of the canyon before connecting with the Bright Angel Trail and climbing 4,500 feet and 9.6 miles back out again to the South Rim). Not anything remotely resembling a hiker myself, I was DEFINITELY not interested in completing a strenuous full day excursion to a vast unknown, and I remember thinking to myself, “just smile and nod and hope she forgets about this entire conversation.” Nearly four months later, I realize what a tragedy that would have been.
Our comfort zone can be described as a “behavioral space where your activities and behaviors fit a routine and pattern that minimizes stress and risk.” This could very well have been the definition of my life. I tend to rely on having a sense of familiarity, security, and certainty at all times. Spending 36 hours to travel to the Grand Canyon, hike all day on intense terrain, and then drive home was definitely in none of these categories. Just thinking about all the unknowns was completely stressful to me.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago after a Mom Strong class and the Grand Canyon was brought up again. I had put zero thought in to it, knowing that there was no way I would ever do such a crazy thing. I remember saying “I don’t know, that is just totally outside of my comfort zone.” To which someone quickly chimed in: every single day at Telos I do things that are outside of my comfort zone. Right then and there I made the conscious decision that I would go on this trip. A switch was flipped in my brain and suddenly it was completely clear to me: as a coach, how can I really inspire my athletes to “get outside of their comfort zone” and achieve the things they never thought possible in the gym (or life in general), if I wasn’t willing to do the exact same? After all, it is the times you really push yourself to try new things, embrace risk, and make changes in your life that can lead to real personal growth and transformation.
Yesterday I returned home from one of the the most incredible, life-changing experiences of my life. Although it was December and we weren’t able to complete the true Rim-to-Rim hike, we were still able to do a pretty “epic” 15+ mile route that went down the South Kaibab trail and back up Bright Angel trail. Hiking in the Grand Canyon challenged me mentally and physically and it was absolutely exhausting- I recall sitting on the cold shuttle on the way to the trailhead feeling the same anxiety and stress I had felt before giving birth to my two children- but it was also the most amazingly surreal experience. The Grand Canyon strikes you to your very soul; there is no way you can go there and not be totally amazed by the world we live in. I was surrounded by an inspiring group of five strong, amazing women who have given me the opportunity to realize how much I am capable of if I can just get my mind out of my way.
Today, I am SO sore from the long day of hiking, but my heart is full. I came home from this trip thankful for what my body was able to accomplish, re-energized, and bonded with the incredible ladies I went on this journey with. I look forward to what challenges I can face next. And all this would have not happened if I was not willing to take a big leap of faith and step out of my comfort zone.
The purpose of this post is not to inspire you to grab some friends, jump in to an SUV, and take a whirlwind trip to the Grand Canyon (although if that is your thing then it is 100% worth it and I would totally recommend it). Rather, think about something that might seem “completely crazy and out of your comfort zone” and make the conscious decision that you will do it. No matter how big or small that “thing” might be, a little anxiety can help us perform at our peak, and when we challenge ourselves, we tend to rise to the occasion. If I had put my foot down and refused to go on this trip, I would have missed out on SO MUCH. By stepping outside of my comfort zone, I reaped an incredible reward. This was truly the trip of a lifetime, and I have experienced more personal growth in these past few days than I have in years. My comfort zone is safe, but nothing grows there. By being ok with being uncomfortable, I was able to experience an enormous opportunity for growth, and I am so grateful for that.