Last week, I had the pleasure of spending four days at Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center in SE Minnesota with my son’s 6th-grade class. Eagle Bluff is a remarkable place; located on the bluffs of the Root River, it is dedicated to teaching kids (and adults) to respect and care for the natural beauty of our world, and to carefully use our resources. More than that, the programs and activities at Eagle Bluff give students new experiences (many of these kids have never hiked, been on the water, or spent any significant time outdoors. . . . or without a screen in their hands) and teach them the importance of teamwork and communication. Students get outside their comfort zones and push their own boundaries.
Nowhere is this pushing more clearly demonstrated than on the climbing wall. The thirty-five-foot wall offers numerous paths with footholds and handholds big and small, all of which challenge the kids both physically and mentally. The instructors talked to the 6th-grade class I was with about the importance of making a “commitment move.” During the climb, climbers will inevitably get to a point where the next move is just out of reach. They’ll need to stretch themselves physically past their comfort zone to reach the next handhold, and will need some mental toughness to do it. They will need to commit, 100%, to the effort, but they will not be alone. Each climber has support from their partner on the ground, who is responsible for keeping the climbing rope secure and the climber safe. Before making that big move, the climber calls out to her partner “Commitment move,” as if to say “I’m getting ready to take a leap, please get ready to catch me!” The partner acknowledges, and the climber makes the move, hopefully successfully. That partnership, both physically and in words of encouragement, allows the climber to commit, and lunge toward that next handhold.
Running a business, building a career, trying to achieve a big personal or professional goal in our lives, is no different. Sometimes, you need to simply take a deep breath, tense your muscles, and make the lunge for that handhold that seems just out of reach, but is the key to reaching the top of the wall you are climbing. You need to make a professional commitment move. Growth, learning, excellence, and achievement happen when you stretch past your comfort zone; when you bet on yourself in a new venture, when you go for (or accept) the promotion that makes you feel over your head, when you set a goal that is out of reach without guts, hard work, and maybe a little luck along the way.
In every one of those situations, however, you’re not alone. Someone is there, feet firmly on the ground, keeping your climbing rope secure and keeping your climb steady, if not easy. We all have people in our corner who support us, believe in us, have mentored and taught us along the way, and have a vested interest in seeing us succeed. When it is time for that professional commitment move, these are the people we turn to for guidance, resources, and support. Before making the climb, make sure you know who those people are, and let them know “I’m getting ready to take a leap, please get ready to catch me!”
Where is that big leap for you? What does that handhold that is just out of reach look like, and what does it mean for you if you can reach it? Who are your partners on the ground, and how can they support you and keep that rope steady. Most importantly, what does the view look like from the top of that wall? Set your sights on that handhold, take a deep breath. . . . and make the leap.