How would it help our performance as a leader if we could simply focus on one step at a time?
Let me share a story of an experience I had recently which highlighted this point to me. Being in darkness enabled me to quieten my thoughts, quieten my mind and focus only on what I could see immediately ahead of me, as a result I was more relaxed and was able to achieve more than I ever imagined I would.
I recently went on a trip to an old slate mine in North Wales with my family, I had read a brief description about it in a brochure, although the description was quite vague… Anyway, I decided that it sounded like a good idea, and when I phoned up to book, they told me the only trip (which was 5 hours long!) I could get on was on that day, in 2 hours’ time. Without time to think, I told my family we were going to visit a mine (that’s all I said), and when we arrived, we were given a safety briefing and given all the climbing gear and ropes ready for our trip.
We were all loaded into 2 old Land Rovers and driven up a very rickety old road up into a village in the hills, once we arrived, we had a 45-minute walk, until we finally arrived at the mine’s entrance, a tiny opening that we had to squeeze into, to get into the mine, which was 7 storeys deep, with hundreds of small caverns. It had been disused since World War 2, and some of the shafts had flooded, so we had to bypass these. The mine was pitch black except for the light from our head torches, and we had to wade through ankle-deep running water (luckily they had pre-warned us to wear wellies!). The trip involved lots of walking in tunnels, going in a boat across a flooded shaft, going on a zip wire over some water between two shafts, climbing a width of a sheer rock face, abseiling down 60 feet into the bottom of a (pitch black) mine shaft, and climbing up 200 steps on a step ladder with running water pouring down the steps, as we climbed.
We found ourselves in a mine shaft, climbing along a ledge of rock about 60 feet across and 60 feet deep. I had decided early on that I would make sure I was the first to go, as I may have changed my mind if I had seen others do it before me. All I remember is being able to just about see my foot and the next bit of rock in front of me. I remember thinking ‘this is scary!’, to be honest, I couldn’t really see very much, and didn’t have much of a reference point to be scared by! So I decided that this thought wasn’t valid and so proceeded.
The whole experience took me and my oldest daughter (who is afraid of heights) outside of our comfort zone, and looking back, it required a lot of stamina and courage, as it was taking me outside of what I knew to be my “comfort zone”, however, because I did it in the dark of the cave and the guides took us through one step at a time, I was able to do it without realising the extent of what I had actually done.
How much do our thoughts hold us back? How often do we spend too much time over thinking something and convincing ourselves it’s a bad idea by the time we’ve intellectualised it? How often do we think so much about something, that we convince ourselves that it’s too difficult, and in doing so, make our lives more difficult and stressful and hold ourselves back?
I know that the darkness in that cave enabled me to achieve more than if it had been light! Seeing how high up I was would have scared me to death, and my thoughts would have taken over in my head and convinced me that it was too scary and dangerous to attempt.
Sometimes, the enormity of a task can seem daunting and impossible, if we can just break it down into small chunks, one step at a time and only look at what is immediately in front of us, then the task becomes achievable and easier as a result. When you get to the end, it’s simply just the final step! You are also more likely to enjoy the journey along the way, which is the most important point. After all, if you aren’t going to enjoy it, why bother?!
By Lucy Czakan