When my oldest was in grade two he had a sudden onset of anxiety, particularly over creative writing assignments they were given in school. Thankfully he had a fabulous teacher who encouraged us in a parent teacher conference to give him opportunities to take healthy risks. She suggested downhill skiing, a pastime we loved before we had kids, but hadn’t done in a few years. We happily put him in ski lessons, progressing his skills on weekend trips to a local hill. On one occasion, he had a bit of a freak out at the top of a steep part of the run and we encouraged him to pick his way down, no matter how long it took. He followed my tracks while his dad waited patiently at the top in case there was a fall. We all made it to the bottom and celebrated our win, looking back at what we thought was scary just a few minutes ago, was now an accomplishment in our past. This gave my son real world experience for overcoming fear, so the anxiety he was experiencing at school dissipated.
The year is drawing to a close, and a natural process of reflection beckons us to pause, take a step back, and cast our minds over the tapestry of the preceding 365 days. Beyond the nostalgia, there lies a profound importance in this practice, an opportunity to extract meaning from the various risks and rewards that have shaped our journey.
In my reflecting on 2023, there is one moment that felt risky, but had that sweet reward of my son’s steep ski hill. It stands out more than any other moment, in part because it challenged my limiting beliefs and gave me some true perspective, but also because I was in a beautiful place, surrounded by incredible people, WAY outside my comfort zone.
Setting the Scene: How it Began
This time last year I said a full bodied yes to a trip to Iceland with a dear friend of mine. Everything was confirmed in early January, and we were set to take the adventure of a lifetime with 15 women in August. I knew six of the women on the trip, the rest were strangers to me.
Preparations began, buying hiking boots and breaking them in and planning a few excursions on the day we arrived before meeting up with our guide for the arranged itinerary. I read a few books and blogs, had conversations with my roommate and found myself counting down the sleeps. This was the first time in over 26 years I’d travelled without my husband and/or kids, saying yes TO and making room FOR me.
Shortly before we left on the trip, I lost a dear family friend after a valiant battle with brain cancer. His family shared that one of his last spoken words was shenanigans, which has inspired the joy and levity that I want to bring to my life. Shenanigans he said, apparently whispered with a smile.
Sometimes we hold things so heavily, staring them down like a steep, slightly icy patch on a ski hill. Shenanigans are high-spirited, light-hearted behaviours that could be mischievous in nature. What an interesting energy to bring to Iceland with me, in my friend’s honour.
Staring Limiting Beliefs in the Face
Part of our six-day tour across Southern Iceland included a hike of the Breidamerkurjokull section of the largest glacier in Iceland, Vatnajokull. Our itinerary said, “You’ll snap on a pair of crampons to explore the endless terrain of snow and ice and photograph the magnificent Crystal Ice Caves,” but when we met our guide, we were told we would be wearing harnesses too.
A harness?!? Greaaatttt.
You see, I’ve spent a lifetime saying I will only participate in sports that involve cute gear. Tennis? Golf? Yoga? Cute gear all around. Rock climbing, ziplining, spelunking? If it requires a harness, it’s a hard pass.
This also involved a serious amount of self-deprecating talk around no one needing to see my a$$ in a harness, creating limiting beliefs around what I was capable of and an all-around mindset that I do not have the right body or am not, in fact, sporty.
The harness became my own personal steep ski run.
We loaded up on the rugged bus, did some wild off roading, and arrived at what was referred to as a parking lot (aka flat gravel patch), before gearing up. Crampons fitted, sunscreen applied, and helmet and harness donned, we set out across a moonlike landscape for quite a few kilometres, over a bridge and across some rocks before coming to the tongue of the glacier.
The previous terrain was not easy, but this is where it really got tough. None of us were accustomed to walking in crampons, let alone the steeper pitch and glacial ice. It became quite easy to look down, focus on the task at hand and forget to take in the scenery. Thankfully we had a pair of skilled and very funny guides to make the experience special.
Unexpected Insights From Breidamerkurjokull
The nearly four-hours we spent on the glacier tour was filled with grit, shenanigans, lessons and laughter. As I reflect on what feels like a pivotal part of my 2023, I have a few unexpected insights:
The most stunning part of the tour may have been the ice cave we stopped to see. We came at it from the south side and what looked like a lump of black lava dust from one angle, was actually a beautiful crystal ice cave from the other. This was a poignant reminder that when you change the way you look at things, the way you look at things changes.
At many points during the hike, I found myself looking back toward where the bus was, almost to know how far I’d come. The bus got smaller and smaller the further we hiked. Sometimes perspective is everything – I didn’t need my smartwatch to tell me how far I’d travelled across the moonlike landscape.
What I will forever remember about this day is the laughter. It truly is the best medicine. The truth about this experience is that it pushed us all in different ways. We were uncomfortable and yet, together we conquered it. Community, connection, belonging – we are wired for it.
I looked at my roommate that night and said, “can you believe you did that?” I was in total disbelief that I actually completed this challenge, but she is 20+ years my senior and trooped on with the help of our guides. Sometimes it takes expert help with local knowledge and it’s okay to ask for a hand if you need it.
But the big one? The reason for the harness? Our guide put an ice screw into the glacier and ran ropes so each of us could look over a crevasse called “Bellissimo” with opportunities for photos and videos of us hanging out over the opening. Knees trembling, we each took our turn, some with caution and others with abandon. We might have been scared, but we did it anyway!
Never did I ever think I would do this, not ever. Limiting belief, shattered!
A Life Coach's Biggest Lesson of 2023: A Revelation Worth Sharing
My previous thinking had limited my access to a whole world of magic, joy and shenanigans that was right there for the taking. On top of that, the self-deprecating talk was a story about how incapable I thought I was, or how silly I thought I’d look. So here it is - a photo of my a$$ in a harness.
The biggest lesson I learned in 2023 as a Life Coach? Don’t let the story you’ve been telling yourself prevent you from experiencing life. Take the leap and do the damn thing. In my case, if I hadn’t put on the harness, I would have fully missed out on all the magic of the day, but also of all the integration of these lessons when I got home.
Ask for support, lean on a friend, laugh it off…whatever it takes to say yes to you.
Personal Growth: How The Harness Inspired Action
I returned home ready to take inventory of where I’ve been saying no and where I could say yes. Conversely, boundaries were put around things that have been sapping my energy. For instance, I stopped working IN other people’s businesses and started working ON my own.
Interestingly, my previous way of thinking was contrary to my Human Design. You see, as a 1/3 Man-Gen, I’m all about trial and error, researching, learning, and trying new things. Leaning into taking healthy risks are a way of unlocking what makes me, me.
For my son it was a steep part of a ski run that had him uncertain if he could get through. For me, it was the donning of a harness and any activity that involved. What’s holding you back? What limiting belief would you love to bust through in the coming months? What shenanigans await?
I’ve created a life coaching package called Alchemize Your Life, designed to transform your potential into purpose. If this sounds like the kind of support you need to bust through some limiting beliefs and put on a metaphorical harness, let’s connect for a virtual coffee.
Otherwise, I wish you all the magic this season has to offer. It’s a beautiful time for reflection.
Lastly, a special thank you to the bad-ass women who journeyed with me across Iceland - for holding my hand, and touching my heart.