Mindful of my fear of heights, I was prepared to be unnerved by the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway – the largest of three aerial tramways in the world -- on my recent trip to the California desert. That afternoon certainly did have its moments.
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But as it turned out, my biggest challenge in overcoming fear on the trip came two days later in a yoga class. A toe-in-the-water beginner who has taken maybe seven classes the last few months, I found myself in a class that put a sweat film on my body in the first five minutes. The instructor was hardcore and about halfway in he noted it was power yoga. I was relieved and freaked at the same time.
How the heck did I wind up on a mat in the front of the room while this guy twisted people into a pretzel?
You want resolutions for this year or any other? Here goes:
~ When the urge to flee a situation that doesn't put you in danger hits, stare it down hard. Tell it you're not a quitter.
~ Once you put the fear in its place, get in there and try your best.
~ When trying your best means you can only do about half of what's being asked of you, be perfectly, joyfully cool with that.
~ Afterward, bask in not only the accomplishment but your perseverance. Both are building blocks to take you to another amazing level in life.
I left that yoga class drenched, stretched, exhilarated and admittedly a little self-conscious about being a few -- OK, many -- beats behind. It reminded me to not only push my own boundaries but those of my life coaching clients as well. We all want to be, and need to be, pushed. I thanked the instructor afterward, but also confessed I would never have signed up for the class if I had known it was power yoga.
If that was a perfect example of staring down a fear involuntarily, then the aforementioned tram was one of confronting one voluntarily.
After I decided to turn 50 at a spa and golf resort in Rancho Mirage, my friend Lisa offered to take me on the tram that goes from the floor of the Coachella Valley to near the top of San Jacinto Peak. She was unaware of my fear of heights and so had unwittingly set off my whirling mind: Do something you fear on your 50th birthday. Before I even embarked on the trip, I made arrangements to take her up on it.
With the bustle of the holidays before I left, there was little time to think about it. I managed to put it out of my mind. You know, the possibility of plunging to my death and all that. But that day when Lisa and I arrived at the tramway ticket line, we found out there was a two-hour wait. When I asked her if that was OK, she responded with, "You're not getting out of this that easily."
I had to laugh. So, more resolutions for this or any year:
~ Surround yourself with good, supportive people. They're priceless.
~ When you feel like a kicker who's being iced, figure out if what you need is to intensify your focus or to distract yourself until the moment the football makes contact with your foot. That means fine-tuning your self-awareness and building your confidence.
~ Make the kick. It counts whether the ball is so straight it could hit a bull’s eye or if it almost hits the upright. No perfection needed. Either way, you’ve scored.
~ Whatever happened leading up to it, when you're in an experience, be in the experience. You owe it to yourself. Be open to all it has to offer.
~ Don't be affected by the perceptions of others. There is something that comes easily to you that would be daunting to them. That's what makes the world so fascinating.
~ Remember that drawing on courage in one thing helps you strengthen that muscle moving forward.
After two hours or so, Lisa and I stepped onto the biggest rotating tram in the world. When I looked up to where we were going I was stunned. Seriously? Way up there? Gulp. I later learned it was two and a half miles. We stood along the rotating perimeter and I held on, mostly looking around me at the beautiful, monstrous snow-dusted mountains, kind of afraid to look down as we climbed.
I let go of the fact that the little boy next to me was unfazed and took brief note of the people who only saw it as transport for a hike. I kept breathing. For me, the tram was akin to the most daunting of journeys. I felt nervous, yet somehow enveloped in goodness. There was something so breathtaking about those mountains as we went up into them. The crags and crevices. The scope. We closed in on them and it was like flying. This is what an eagle sees when it's out for a cruise? All this magnificence?
I marveled a bit to Lisa at all that was around us and felt some relief when we reached the top. While up there we walked around to take in the views and then watched a short film about the history of the tram. That's where I learned about Crocker's folly, which is what a local newspaper columnist called it when electrical engineer Francis F. Crocker proposed the idea in 1935. Imagine how he felt when the inaugural ride took place in 1963.
After that I was so inspired I told Lisa I wanted to make sure to look down on our descent into the valley. We got on the tram and I found a seat in the "safe" middle, but after about two minutes Lisa nudged me up out of the seat and reminded me that I'd wanted more of a challenge. She was right. We stood near the perimeter again and as we descended in the darkness this time, looking down meant a dazzling display of twinkling lights in the valley. A bright crescent moon hovered over us.
It felt like a reward. Happy Birthday to me. Happy New Year to us all.
Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is www.nancola.com and you can follow her on Twitter @nancola. Please direct all questions/comments to FOXGamePlan@gmail.com.