What Do You Find Really Challenging?

Signpost on the mountain – photo by author

It’s often not what you think!

I am on a trip in the mountains at the moment. I am there for several purposes (as I will explain over the next few days) but one reason is to challenge myself. I like a challenge. One of my core values is adventure and part of adventure is getting out of your comfort zone.

I love the mountains but they can still scare me. I know that while climbing I can experience an exposure – a feeling of vulnerability and fear – that helps me test my limits. By pushing at my barriers I learn more about myself and build my resilience at the same time.

A surprising challenge

But guess what is funny. On day one I went to climb a mountain. Was it the exertion that I found most challenging? Was it the sheer drops that triggered me? Was it the height that exposed my character? No. The first day’s biggest challenge came before I even started climbing. It happened in the airport.

Ok, so this might say something (or a lot) about me, but my biggest challenge was queuing for my hire car. Although, like most Brits, I am a very accomplished and practiced at queuing, I don’t much like it. And this time I was in the queue for over an hour. To put this into context, it was nearly the same time it took me to fly from the UK to the Alps. Just standing there. Waiting. Slowly. One step. Then stand. Then another. Wasting. Time.

And of course there was the archetypal troublesome customer at the front of this long queue. They questioned every aspect of the contract. They prevaricated over the choice of vehicle. They required detailed explanation to use the tablet for the electronic signatures. All the while completely oblivious to the Paddington states boring holes into their back from the entire line of people behind them.

Rising to the challenge

Some groups sent for coffee. Some split to take breaks outside. But I was alone. The sole guardian of my place on the queue. The queue continued to grow (much faster than it was depleting) and the ambiance of the line did not encourage asking favours such as ‘could you keep my place for 5 minutes?’

As way of proof, I tried to crack a joke with the people next to me. It was coming up to the hour and I said that the desk would shortly be closing for an extended lunch break. It nearly caused a riot and it took me some time to explain the concept of irony to my international friends.

So I waited and I worked hard on not being triggered. I was very close to having my big red button firmly pressed but it didn’t happen. I kept my composure. I have yet to master a state of meditative while queuing but I will get there someday. On this day at least I was able to breathe, keep calm and carry on.

What do you find challenging?

So what do I find really challenging? Queuing apparently. Maybe because it goes against that value of adventure. It is hard to make queuing adventurous (unless you are waiting to clip onto the rope to go up the Hillary step on Mount Everest!)

How about you? What do you find challenging? Whatever it is embrace it. Find your boundaries and find new ways to manage yourself on the brink. And if I’m doubt, take a deep breathe, keep calm and carry on!


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