Lessons from a 10 year old!

I love tree top adventure activities like ropes, zip lines (for loyal readers remember how much I loved my trapeze experience a few years ago!) and obstacle courses.

And I know not all people do. My friend Sue and her daughter Amelie are afraid of heights. Amelie was invited to a birthday party this summer at Go Ape – a tree top adventure. She was afraid of the activity and wanted to participate with her friends so in advance of the party Sue, Amelie and I went to Go Ape on a trial run.

There are 5 stages to the adventure – the first is at ground level where you do the training so you are allowed on the higher stages. The training involves the safety cords and fastenings so that when you are above the ground (highest point being 18 meters or 60 feet above ground on stage 5) you are safe and also includes practicing a zip wire descent as every stage ends with the zip wire back to the ground.

We all loved stage 1 even though Sue was a bit nervous for herself and her daughter. We passed the safety training and were let loose to go enjoy the rest of the stages above ground. Stages 2 and 3 were loads of fun. We chatted and joked with a stag party on the course with us (the groom forced to dress in a Tarzan costume). Stage 4 was a little scary with the unstable crawl through segments of tube suspended well above the ground and with a swing on a rope into a vertical mesh net.

As we entered the stage 5 area there was an adult who had been in front of us earlier who was now sitting on the bench at the base of the tall ladders. We ushered her ahead of us and she declined saying she wasn’t doing it. We didn’t think much of that and I started the long ascent. Amelie followed me (this had been our order all the way through so Amelie was led by me and followed by her Mum). Cut a long story short Amelie was very scared after about 2 of the obstacles (with 5 still to go) and wanted to descend which wasn’t an option once on the course. I talked to an employee on the ground about our options, he said there were none but to finish. So through tears and sobbing she did the next obstacle with me coaxing her along and keeping eye contact from the end of that obstacle. The employee witnessed how upset she was and said he could come up and go on the obstacle with her (I wasn’t allowed to because of safety risk) – Yes!

She easily finished the stage, descended the high zip wire and waited for me to finish (her Mum went ahead of me once the employee was looking after her daughter). At the end I asked her how she did it and what she learned:

  1. When afraid distracting yourself from the fear works (which is what the employee did).
  2. Once you know you can do something it’s easier to do it again
  3. She knows she can face future fears because she handled this one
  4. It’s good to do it with her Mum who was also scared so felt they did it together
  5. Now she knows she can do other height related things because she’s done this

As an aside, Amelie went to the party the next week and the kids only did up to stage 3! She had achieved so much more than what was needed to participate.

If a 10 year old can smash her fear, what can she inspire you to conquer?