Shifting Focus

Taking clients and students on peak ascents is a wonderful experience. First there is the  preparation, pulling equipment together, packing what is truly necessary and paring down what is not.  Then there is the emotional and mental readying for what is to come, perhaps the ascent will be extremely physical or involve dealing with fears and anxieties. Finally, the trailhead is reached and the excitement of what is about to begin; the weight of the pack settles into the shoulders, the smell of the forest fills nostrils and the crisp air provides a sense of freedom and anticipation. The toil begins, onwards, upwards, step by step, height is gained, views increase, nature becomes more stark, there is a proximity to the clouds that induces a closeness to higher power, and so it goes on. If the planets are aligned then a peak is reached, the world opens up under our feet and a sense of euphoria sweeps us up.

This though is often when the real work begins, tired, emotionally spent we have to descend with the accompanying tightness in the knees, the proneness to day dreaming and the exposure of facing out and down. This is often the time when fears are outed and it is usually compounded by having to negotiate steep, loose ground. There have been a number of times when someone in my group has frozen, deciding that they are not up to the task. Their skittering feet and the potential of the fall mapped out clearly below them stops them in their tracks. This is when the plea of, “I can’t do it, I can’t go on” really is not an option. There is no turning back and making it go away. So how does one deal with it?

My usual response is to pull out two flat rocks and place them on the back of the hands of the person struggling. I will model how to walk down hill balancing these friends. Immediately, my knees bend, my butt closer to the ground, legs acting as shock absorbers, back straight, hands in front, poised like an extreme skier. This is the ideal posture for negotiating such terrain, feet stick and if they do not, then the loose screes can be surfed. For the mentally drained, focus turns to the back of the hands, the distant view becoming blurred, like a shifted aperture on a camera. While the location is still obvious they disassociate from it and it no longer occupies the prevalent place in their mind, they are disconnected from their fear, they do not worry about their feet or the fall, they think about balancing the rocks. The result is truly magical, fear is replaced by drive, confidence comes from practice and the descent is safely navigated. Accomplishment is the order of the day

If you are feeling overwhelmed, and you are freezing up, what can you do to refocus? By shifting the emphasis to a small seemingly insignificant detail can you replace anxiety with elation? Good luck.


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All I really need to know I learned outside

Hi my name is Wil Rickards and this is the first blog in a series which I hope will be filled with ideas and activities that you will find useful on the journey of reaching your true potential and maybe finding a job.

Today I am going to introduce myself by explaining where most of my real learning has come from. Author Robert Fulghum wrote a popular book called, All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten; all I can say is that I must have been a late bloomer because I did not figure life out quite so early. Yet, if I examine my own experiences, I believe what I found out for myself, often the hard way has stood me in the greatest stead.

My most effective classrooms were the mountains, rivers and seas of my teens and early twenties, here every action and reaction was relevant and feedback was usually instant.

  • If I forgot my rain gear or spare layers I was left cold or wet
  • If I could not be bothered to prepare for lunch I went hungry
  • The less I had the more resourceful I became and the easier it was to move
  • Hard work was often rewarded; I am left with lots of mental images of stunning views
  • The people I shared most trust with are the ones I am still good friends with decades on down the road
  • I learned trust by putting myself in situations where I had to trust and I gained a great deal from doing it
  • The hardest objectives needed to be prepared and trained for the most and are the ones I still remember
  • The more committing and dangerous an adventure the more carefully I chose a partner
  • Enjoyment stemmed not only from the activity but in a large part from the company I kept and yet doing something alone was often more emotionally challenging and provided a different benefit
  • Being part of a tribe gave me cultural identity, role models, mentors (both savant and otherwise) and quelled some of my impetuosity while still being a nursery for my confident aspirations
  • I dreamed most peacefully when, I slept the sleep of the warrior, my arms still aching from the travail and my mind spent from the exertions of maintaining optimism and focus in the face of fear and adversity
  • My performance improved most significantly when I set concrete, positive goals and shared the journey with a partner who wanted the same thing and was happy to help me push when life became difficult
  • Being self aware and training my weaknesses while playing to my strengths paid the most dividends
  • The meditation of being thoroughly in the moment brought the most development. This was most easily obtained when I had to focus and the consequences were real
  • Mimicking natural processes was often the most efficient path to follow
  • There was no point in getting upset with a situation, it just needed to be dealt with and it was especially rare that I could blame someone else while maintaining integrity; even if I wanted to

Surrounding myself in nature has provided me with these examples and the added benefit of grounding. Standing on top of a precipitous mountain, feeling the surge of a river dropping over a rapid or sitting amidst a vast ocean in a small boat has helped me to know how significant I really am. It has also filled me with joy and allowed me to recognize the value of my choices and the control I have over them.

So that is a little about me. Have you recognized I like transferable learning? Here are a few questions for you. How do you know what you know? Are you like me and need gentle reminders of your own truth? Does taking time out to think about the lessons you have learned in your past give you insight into how to deal with your today? Please do comment, I love reading people’s thoughts and ideas and next time I will share a gem for staying upbeat when life is wearing you down.

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