My High Ropes Course Lessons

confidence growth health

Last week, my family took a quick vacation to Florida. Since we live in Minnesota, winter can feel pretty dismal, and our annual getaways to Florida have become an important tradition to get us through the long, cold winter.

I never used to understand why people would take time in the winter to head to warmer places - until we did it the first time. I suppose it's one of those "don't knock it until you've tried it!" type of things.

We usually head to the Gulf side of Florida and have some familiar places there, but this year our favorite areas were, sadly, still recovering from hurricane damage. So we headed to the ocean side of the state. 

After a day at the theme parks in Orlando, we drove to the ocean and stayed at a lovely AirBNB. Most days we lounged in the heated pool and hot tub, soaking in as much fresh outdoor air as we could. We walked to the beach a couple of days as well. Even though the weather was chilly by Florida standards, it was still at least 50-60 degrees warmer than home for us!

On our last full day in Florida, our oldest daughter wanted to do a high ropes course that she had seen. High ropes, thrills, heights -- not my things. But spending time with our college daughter? Sign me up!

So we did a three-level ropes course. My muscles are still a bit sore several days later, but it was absolutely worth it!

And, as you know about me, I'm always looking for the lessons in experiences, so here are a few of my key takeaways:

1. Be willing to learn

I don't think I've done high ropes courses since I was a camp counselor in college. I really don't know the first thing about any of it, so I had to open myself up to learning. It's not rocket science, but here are definitely some skills and techniques that make you more successful. So I needed to learn from our instructor and my teenage daughter who took to the challenge much quicker than me. (Main lesson: when zip lining, keep your legs together and off to one side of the cable or you will get serious rope burns -- I learned that one the hard way!)

2. Trust

Sometimes the hardest thing for me to do on a particular part of the course was to just get started. Stepping off the platform onto the ropes was terrifying. I'm risk-averse by nature, so stepping onto a thin rope or chunk of wood suspended by a cable seemed highly risky. But once I did that, I could get across the challenge just fine (not artfully or smoothly, but safely). Eventually, I was able to tell myself just to take the first step and trust that it would be okay. And it worked!

3. Know your limits and don't be ashamed of them

We did a three level course with the first level for beginners, the second level being more intermediate, and the third level was advanced. I knew at the beginning of the second level that the third level was going to be a stretch for me. I didn't even know if I would be able to do it at all, and I told my daughter and our guide that. I decided to do my best on the third level, but I could see that the final challenge was beyond me. My muscles were just about at fatigue (meaning they were not listening to me when I tried to tell them what to do), and I could tell that it would be all I could do to complete the third level up to the point of the last challenge. Instead of being ashamed or embarrassed that I couldn't do the last challenge, I focused on being proud of what I did accomplish - the rest of the course which was far outside of my comfort zone in so many ways.

4. Ask for help

When it came to that third level, the only way to get back to home base without doing that last challenge was to ask for help and get pulled in by our guide. I didn't want to have to admit I couldn't do the last challenge and be unceremoniously pulled across it by a guide. On the other hand, just skipping the last challenge meant I wouldn't be able to do the rest of the third level with our daughter, and I didn't want to miss that. So I swallowed hard, humbled myself, and told Jackson (our trusty guide) to just be ready to pull me in on that last challenge. Sure enough, he met us at the end of the course, my muscles were kaput, my daughter finished the challenge like a champ, and Jackson pulled me safely across so I could zipline down. I didn't want to let my pride prevent me from having the rest of the experience, and sometimes asking for help is the best thing we can possibly do.

While challenging myself like I did last week feels very uncomfortable, those sort of challenges always teach me lessons and remind me what I can do. It's important to practice pushing through discomfort because the more we do it in any area of our lives, the more we can do it in every area of our lives. And all change, growth, and progress requires feeling uncomfortable - so embrace grappling with that feeling of discomfort and taking action anyway!