Why We Have to Try New Things that Terrify Us

Yesterday, an adventurous friend and I went to Mount Baldy. As my athleticism is a topic for discussion, (AKA, I’m not very graceful, nor strong. But I can sure act! ;) It was our intention to hike around a bit, and take in the beauty at the bottom of the mountain; a basic hiker and nature-appreciator’s dream. However, since my friend is a crazy-intense mountaineer, perhaps I should have deduced that “hiking around” would not actually be on the agenda. 

After taking in the beautiful, fresh smell of pine and enjoying a few birds’ symphonies, we came upon a magnificent waterfall. Its rushing sound emboldened me to suggest that we climb a bit further. 

Soon, the road below disappeared, and lush greenery began to envelop us. We passed friendly hikers and stopped to share stories. It was so lovely, in fact, that we kept going. And when my muscles were informing me that they were about ready to turn around and head downhill, my friend mentioned that a ski lodge was just up the way. And because we were already so close, I figured, “Why turn back now?” 

To my excitement and relief, we made it to the ski lodge. Red flowers danced and blue jays sang. We joined a pack of real climbers, all discussing equipment and the perfect climbing conditions and crazy experiences they’ve had in the wild. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel accomplished and proud to be among these serious, dedicated athletes! 

Why We Have to Try New Things that Terrify Us, Reason #1: We are introduced to new worlds. 

I glanced up at the top of the mountain. I blinked, and realized how very close it seemed! (Key word: “seemed.”) Casually and with a definitively uncommitted tone, I asked my friend how far away we were from the summit. 

As this was his 15th journey up THIS mountain, he had no trouble describing the way we would take to reach it, and concluded, “We’re halfway there.” 

Halfway?! My mind screeched. With the newfound energy of my favorite Cliff Bar, the chatter of the serious climbers, the beauty of the day, the excellent company of my companion, and the notion that to throw away my hard work thus far was ludicrous, I nonchalantly suggested, “Let’s go a bit further.” My friend’s eyes lit up! And we were off, and back up the mountain. (I do mean an ACTUAL MOUNTAIN.) 

Our next section of the climb was lovely. We passed through luscious trees and unique plants and 100 year old logs. I’ll admit it. I was smug. I thought we’d already accomplished the most difficult portion of the climb. (Cue Miley Cyrus’s awesome song.) But then, we faced a gnarly incline that seemed vertical. Not only did it seem vertical, but it also seemed to be laughing in my face! (Those pesky mountains.) 

Finally, after I hauled myself up that steep section (he skipped), we reached a serene moment of rest. The ridge at the top seemed to be just ahead! “How much further to the top?” I asked again, feeling like a broken record, similar to “Are we there yet?!” He smiled and answered that the next bit would be flat, and then a final difficult, but short, push to the top. 

My muscles ached, complaining that I wasn’t built for this uphill madness. But I looked up. The very top was so, so close now! How could I turn back?

Why We Have to Try New Things that Terrify Us, Reason #2: We exit our comfort zones. 

We pressed on. This next section, to my dismay, was not flat. Oh no. It was definitely another incline! And now, it was difficult to tune out the vicious roars and insults my muscles were hurling at me, but tune them out I must, as this portion was very steep, rocky, and the trails were no longer clearly traveled. I needed total focus. 

“I can’t do this,” became the theme song playing in my head. But I wanted to be able to. I wanted to prove myself wrong. I wanted to continue even though my entire body violently disagreed. This wasn’t my strength at all! I found myself wishing I could act, sing, or write my way to the top of the mountain. 

Why We Have to Try New Things that Terrify Us, Reason #3: We learn perseverance. 

And as I was now completely exhausted and discouraged, we reached what my friend called, “the final push.” I could see it now. The finish was in sight! And if it was in sight, there was no way I would turn back! Yet, every step felt like torture. Though in complete agony, my legs achieved a sort of numb acceptance. I was climbing until I reached the end. My muscles could complain all they wanted, but they would be overruled. 

And then: beauty! Rapture! Joy! I lugged myself over the last step of incline to the precious, delightful flat ground of the top of Mount Baldy! 

Why We Have to Try New Things that Terrify Us, Reason #4: We surprise ourselves.

And suddenly, I had a burst of energy! I couldn’t help jumping up and down! I had never even imagined I would attempt, let alone succeed, at a feat like this. It wasn’t in my plan. But, thanks to the encouragement of my friend, and an insatiable curiosity, and drive to achieve something new, there we stood. 

The view was breathtaking. Every other hike I’ve taken, I never reached the top. The immense beauty here was a 360 degree view of mountains and valleys and desert and cities. The blues and purples skated across the sky. And I knew there was no place else I’d rather be. 

Why We Have to Try New Things that Terrify Us, Reason #5: It increases the likelihood that we will try other new things.

The entire way down, I couldn’t help but chirp how proud I was of this unlikely accomplishment! And I couldn’t help imagining coming back and trying this climb again… or attempting others! 

I learned something immeasurably valuable yesterday: I can climb mountains; literally, as well as figuratively. When something difficult at work or my career arises, I will surely remember the beautiful, sometimes agonizing perseverance it took to overcome that mountain. And then, I will remember the sweet rush of victory

So, go on. Try something new this week! Be sure to take a guide who knows what he’s doing to encourage you and show you the ropes.

And then surprise yourself. Test your limits. Overcome. And grow.