New challenges!

A couple of weeks ago I went skiing for the first time in my nearly 50 years. I’m not sure what make me decided to try it, I think it has something to do with reaching a milestone, but also a curiosity about what it would be like to hurtle down a hill, on a pair of skis, on a hill covered in snow. I can be slightly risk averse – I’m not the sort of person to do anything silly, but something attracted me to being in the snow, enjoying the air and of course the social side of skiing. Prior to going, some friends were excited for me, some very worried that I may break something, some actually asked why I was considering such a thing now, at this point in my life.

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My skiing journey, in fact, wasn’t easy, and by the end of the first morning, despite my best efforts, I could barely stand, let alone ski. I felt disheartened, and to be honest, thought of giving up and just opting for the après-ski for the remaining time! After some thought, and at some considerable cost, I decided to confront my difficulties and doubt head on. I had some time in the afternoon, with one person, who saw me ski, corrected a few problems, but most of all told me something about skiing, which was a game changer. He said to me that I should consider everything I would normally do on a ski slope and do the opposite – this ranged from how you lean into the skis, turn and to some extent even use speed to have greater control. He also said to me not to overthink, but rather just enjoy the process of learning something new. Finally, one thing he did give me was a few simple ‘anchors’, which in effect told me what all skiers do to at least move, turn and stop. It was all very counter intuitive. Having adopted some of these ideas and ‘anchors’ I re-joined the ski school, and whilst it was quite hard still, I gradually took on the new skills, grew in confidence and by the fourth day was quite happily skiing down runs independently.

After returning home and sharing my story with others, it reminded me of discussions I often have in OD settings, where people talk about adopting new habits, or tackling a difficult workplace behaviour they have. Often, we are faced with self-doubt, or we give something a go and then fall easily back into an old habit once back in the ‘real world’ – the challenge seems unobtainable despite our best efforts. Often, it all seems so counterintuitive, opposite to what we know.

Adopting new habits and making changes are possible. In fact, neuroscience is telling us more and more each day about the way our brains remain elastic and can change in response to beginning a new way of behaving. It does take time, and a lot of discipline initially, but as I found with my skiing experience, some things can improve quite quickly. Sometimes we just need a few simple ‘anchors’ for the basic skills, a willing colleague or mentor to help us on our way and ‘check in’ when things are not going so well, and of course a lot of positivity and confidence!

So, whatever new challenge you are facing, whatever habit you want to break, whatever new behaviour you want to instil – just go for it, all things are possible, even skiing!

Tim Coupland

Senior Consultant – The Wellbeing Collective

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