When I was a kid I grew up with a fear of heights – it physically manifested itself through tingling hands and feet, cold sweats and dizziness… and that could happen by just watching someone being up high – just watching them. My sister talks about me not even being able to stand on a ladder.
There came a point where it started to rob me. My peers would be abseiling, rock climbing, walking on swing bridges, standing on the glass at the Sky Tower and having the time of their lives, fun… and I missed out, the fear would grip me so much I would do anything not to be near it in case someone tried to persuade me and I made myself look like an idiot refusing profusely.
Fear had control over me and I did not like it one little bit.
I decided I wanted to go to Tree Adventures in West Auckland as a way of celebrating my birthday. It’s a forest with an obstacle course put up into the trees. I invited some of my nearest and dearest, went through the safety training and readied myself at the bottom of the first ladder.
I thought it best that I go first, my daughter second and my mother bringing up the rear. This way if anything happened to my little girl, one of us could sort it out. It was genius without me realising it. My doing something involving heights with my daughter watching me meant that I could not fail, it wasn’t an option. I would not pass this ridiculous disadvantage onto her.
It was awful. I could feel the fear taking its grip but all the while I had to plaster a smile on my face, hide my white knuckles and encourage her along. In the end she was fantastic, no fear and loving walking along wires, crawling through suspended tunnels and crashing into cargo nets via flying fox.
Once it was over I was exhausted. The adrenalin had passed and the energy used to concentrate and calm myself was gone. I slept like a baby that night.
That was the beginning of the end. I decided that I was going to beat this thing in my head. Worse than a fear of heights was the fear of not having control. I’m not really sure how I came up with the idea, but I made a list of things to do with heights that scared the pants off me, the worst things I could think of…
- Tree Adventures
- Para Sailing
- Para Gliding
- Bungee Jumping
- Jumping off the Sky Tower
- Walking across the Auckland Harbour Bridge
- Sky Diving
Like all good organisers I made sure that there was as least one thing (in fact there were two) on the list I could cross off straight away. It’s a Jedi mind trick to make you think you’ve started working on the list already.
Some of you might have a different order of what’s scariest, for me, it was the longer the build up to it, the more time my mind had to freak out and try to talk me out of it.
Para Gliding was fun, once the guy understood that making the glider drop suddenly was not funny and that he might pay with his life if he did it again. I found out later that someone who went a few weeks after me wasn’t strapped in properly and they went straight down the cliff, broke most of their bones and was lucky to be alive. The gliding guy lost his license.
You would think that would deter me, but no… deter is in determined…
Not sure if that’s an inspiring sentence or just rubbish as I write. Anyhoo…
Bungee Jumping was over fairly quickly. We went to the one in Taupo and managed to complete the jump without vomiting. Lucky for the guy I was strapped to – it was a tandem jump, I’m sure there’s no other way I could make myself fall from that height. Apparently you’re one of two people; you can’t stop talking or you don’t talk at all. I didn’t speak for about an hour and for those who know me, that’s rare.
Jumping off the Sky Tower I was in control, kind of. My feet were tingling, I didn’t want to go anywhere near the edge and for this event, I had to be the one who made myself jump off the ledge. I did it. Maybe not the first time, but I did the second time.
Walking across the harbour bridge seems innocent enough, but this has a big build up. It’s a long vibrating walk and you’re up high the whole way. Then you start climbing and the vibrations get more intense. It’s lucky those handrails are made of steel and I wasn’t wearing my superman tshirt. I did make a point on focussing on the positives – the awesome view, the history being relayed to us by the tour guide… great distractions meant that I actually enjoyed myself.
That brings me to the last on the list – Skydiving. I have a picture frame in my living room that has four picture spaces in it. The top one has Para Gliding, second, Bungee Jumping, third, Sky Tower jump. The fourth has been empty with the words ‘SKY DIVE’ written in it. It’s been that way for well over two years.
My sister decided that we were going to finish the list. It was booked. I still don’t really know how I did it. My daughter came with me, now fully aware of my fear but watching me do it anyway. I was determined to make her proud.
I took each step as just a step, don’t look at the whole picture… drive there, say hello, watch the safety video, sign my life away, put on a jump suit, walk to the plane, enjoy the view, listen to instructions, fall.
Done. List completed.
I have found that over the time the list has taught me how to overcome problems – whatever they may be, but especially in business.
The Power of Seven;
- Fake it until you make it
If they don’t know you’re scared, why should you tell them.
- If you fail to plan, you plan to fail
Lists work, if you keep them in a safe place and keep reflecting on them.
- Know your worst enemy – yourself
Admit your weaknesses and don’t let them become excuses.
- Be determined
Just because others fail, doesn’t mean you will, learn from their mistakes.
- Try again
If you don’t make it the first time, do it again, keep learning until you get it right.
- Use distractions
Make distractions an advantage, use them to bring you back to your goal.
- Accept help
Allow someone else to hold your hand; just make sure you take the last step.