go beyond your bounds

by | Jan 9, 2014 | Leadership

Last week, I went to the Banff Mountain Film Festival 2015, a collection of short films of incredible human endeavours in the outdoors.

As a keen skiier, I was expecting lots of footage of powder hounds doing insane things in the snow. There was a bit of that (though with unexpected twists), but that was just one small element of it.

We are amazing!

Amongst the 8 extraordinary films, there was a world-renowned trail rider doing things with a mountain bike on a death-defying ridge on the Isle of Skye, there were 2 madcap adventurers taking a 1000 mile journey across the world’s largest desert with just a homemade steel handcart, and stories of rock climbers setting themselves seemingly impossible challenges which took them across the globe. The evening was a stunning portrayal of human endeavour, defying what you’d perceive as physical and psychological limitations.

The morning after, I was still slightly stunned by the sheer power of the human spirit.

Living with our eyes open

Now I love being active in the outdoors, and have been known to engage in the occasional physical challenge. However, for me, this was not about packing it all in and doing something crazy – though that could be a great idea depending on where you’re at in your life.

This is what I took from the experience :

  • Are you awake? How often are we “going through the motions” in our life and work? What would it take for us to live consciously and intentionally?
  • You can do anything you put your mind to. The only limits are those we impose on ourselves. “If we think we can or we can’t, we are probably right.” Henry Ford. And if you haven’t got something you want to put your mind to, what would motivate and excite you?
  • Embrace failure. How often do we talk ourselves out of something because we’re afraid we’ll fail? What is failure anyway?! In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
  • Aspire to mastery. The guys in these films were world-renowned in their fields, but they didn’t get there by luck. They had dedicated a huge amount of time, practice and energy to achieving excellence and therefore to constantly pushing their “bounds” of competence and ambition further and further out. And they still continue to set themselves new challenges.
  • Doing it alone doesn’t always have magic in it. Doing things with one or more others brings support, challenge, fun, friendship. And will often spur us on to go further than we would have done if we had acted alone.
  • We are stronger than we know. Just because the heroes of these stories were experts did not mean they did not experience fear. There was alot of pain and strife in these films – in fact, one of them was jokingly called Sufferfest!Yet they overcame their fears through their inner strength, their determination to carry on despite their ordeals.

And ultimately….

What struck me was that the people in these films are leading in their life and their work. They are setting goals, they are working towards them, they are making them happen – for their own fulfilment, for the benefit of others less fortunate than themselves, in memory of loved ones.

They are testing their own boundaries, both physical and psychological. They sometimes fall down and, after nursing their wounds (often literally!), they get up and try again.

A final question for you : What do you perceive as your “bounds”, and how can you reach beyond them?

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Alison Reid helps smart people unleash their brilliance so they can lead themselves and others to great results. She's the author of "Unleash Your Leadership : How to Worry Less and Achieve More". Download an extract or buy the book.