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Stress For Growth

This year, I made a personal commitment to put myself in uncomfortable situations which caused stress in order to grow. New studies show that if people start thinking about everyday stress as a positive force, they can protect themselves from some of its damage and use it to learn, grow, and thrive.

So here it is...I spent an incredible bunch of days with some leaders in the Colorado mountains and we pushed ourselves beyond what anybody thought our capabilities were. I put myself in the most stressful situation that I've experienced in a very long time. Hiking at elevation for 17 hours. We covered 18 miles and although that doesn't sound like a lot, I learned why Boulder Colorado is called boulder.

I learned that I am capable of far more than I once thought. Being in that stressful situation, knowing that, there's no way out of this except to climb up that mountain and go over and down the the other side where I'm going to be able to relax a little bit and breathe better and my stress level is going to come down.

The stress started early in the morning when I got up. We didn't leave till midday. Call it anticipation, call it going into the unknown, the stress continued to build. I knew what I had to do.

I had to practice the three things that I've mentioned before in previous posts.

  • Detach

  • Prioritize

  • Execute

So as we're going up this hill and I'm breathing for my life, I had to literally take a second because my body was being overwhelmed by the stress and say, "Okay, Sam, just breathe." Literally, I told myself, breathe, and you're okay - I detached. I knew where the mission was taking me and I didn't look at it as I had to get all the way up the mountain. I broke it down into how many people were ahead of me and how many steps I needed to take to get up to the next person. I prioritized in my head, I didn't let the overwhelming thought of, I have to climb up this entire mountain overwhelm me.

We climbed a couple large hills, up and down, up and down, but I executed on what was standing right in front of me. One foot in front of the other. That's how you climb a mountain, right? It's not complicated. Our minds can often make it feel very different however. So there I am, one foot in front of the other, sucking wind, but with my mind present at all times telling myself, "All you have to do, Sam, is take the next step, look at the person ahead head of you, walk in those steps." And that was the huge revelation that helped me calm down and understand that despite being out in the wilderness in what some would call an unsafe place, I actually was in a safe place because I was surrounded by a group of people. We are all in this together. We all knew we were going to make it through. All of us had the same uncertainties and fear and the stress and it would come out of all of us at different times.

The cool thing was that we could be there for each other because each of us dealt with the stress and what was going on in our heads differently which we were able to pass on and help the next person.

A big thing with solving stress and being in situations that you've never been in before is the ability to lean on the person next to you. Tony Robbins made this famous in Standing on the Shoulders of Giants. I realized that it was okay not be okay up here on the mountain. And that was difficult. I've been an athlete all my life, so there was a no quit attitude, but then there were points where it was like, "Gosh darn it, am I really going to be able to do this?" Am I going to be okay? And I had to choose to balance out those thoughts and stay in that moment.

So when you're feeling stressed and you're in a hot mess of a situation where you feel you can't get out, understand that it's okay not to be okay, but recognize that you can't stay there. And I looked to my partners on this amazing journey - I looked at their footprints and I stepped into each of them to help get me up the mountain. It was a very emotional moment for me because I'm not used to relying on others. It's something that I've had to cultivate in me and work on, throughout my life. Asking for help is such an important thing to allow yourself to do because when the stress gets really hard and you feel like shutting down and you feel like nobody cares, people really are there.

You can get through it too, if you just look in front of you, if you pick up the phone, if you reach out to somebody that is has been through the crapper of life, or that has experienced the same kind of stress that you're experiencing. Stand on their shoulders, let them help you, let them guide you, let them give you wisdom on how to make it through.

So in it's entirety, we were all awake for more than 30 hours on this journey. I came off of the mountain learning more about limits and realizing that limits are self perceived, and that you can push way beyond them if you want. So when you think that you've reached your limits, know that there is a space to go on which far supersedes what you thought and believed. You just have to take the time to detach, prioritize and execute, and get through the suck, and get through the tears, and get through the pain, and get through everything...I promise you, on the other side you will utterly shock yourself as you create a brand new ceiling for your life.

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