Category Archives: Risk Taking

Ziplining Just Like Real Housewives

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Adventure Zip Big Sky, MT

High Thrill No Skill

I’m a stepmom. So when my step-daughter wants to go ziplining, I oblige. After all, that’s the beauty of being a stepmom. I get to have all the fun and not (as much) of the responsibility. I’m like a really close aunt to the very best 11 year old in the universe.

On a recent trip to Big Sky, Montana, Evelyn wasn’t the only one encouraging me to try the new Adventure Zip. The employees were proud of this new four line trip that included a traverse 200 feet high, a rappel and the chance for some great photo ops.

Ziplining is fun, but it isn’t scary. I’ve always thought it a bit pedestrian–a high thrill, no skill activity for people who don’t live and play in the outdoors. But still, I was game. Especially since my step-daughter really really wanted to zip with me. How could I refuse?

When our small group of clients and guides met to don our full-body harnesses and helmets, I was a little surprised by the fear rising from the group. At first I wondered if I had signed up for something else. But no, this was the Adventure Zip–four cable rides through the trees of the lower slopes of the ski area. How hard could it be?

If The Real Housewives Can Do It…

I’m inspired by people who face their fears. And when I met Laura and Janet–two sisters from New York City–I almost envied them their fear. Jacked up on adrenaline, these two women twittered nervously on the chairlift ride and short hike to the first line. Having grown up in the city, Laura only recently learned to drive a car. And ziplining was definitely not in her wheelhouse. She was afraid of heights.

Chairlift ride to the zipline

Chairlift ride to the zipline

“So why ziplining?” I ask Laura.

“Because I want to face my fears.” She says. “And if the Real Housewives of Orange County can do it, so can I.”

Apparently the Real Housewives–a reality show populated by privileged women who gossip and kvetch about the difficulties of being pampered–recently went to Costa Rica to try ziplining.

As I stood at the top of the first metal platform, prepared to launch into the trees, I tried to conjure up a little fear and adrenaline. Maybe because my step daughter has nerves of steel, or maybe because it just didn’t look that scary, I stepped off with an even heartbeat and dry palms. It was fun. It was fast. I liked it.

And at the bottom platform, I did feel a little dopamine boost.

Facing Fear

Then Laura stepped off the far platform and sailed through the trees. Her body was scrunched tight like the guides had instructed. The only skill involved in ziplining is grabbing the orange rope on the other side so you don’t slide back into the middle sag of the line.

This should be the cover of the brochure

This should be the cover of the brochure

Laura took that job seriously. She reached her open palm to the rope, her hands shaking like an aspen leaf in a windstorm, and grabbed it on the first try. She landed on the platform and started crying tears of joy.

I was impressed. Here was a woman facing her fears. As the morning progressed, Laura’s fear receded. She opened her eyes on the next line, and let out a little whoop of joy at the end of the final zip. She’d conquered her fear.

Me, I shared a fun morning with my step-daughter, impressed by her unflappable courage.

As we walked down from the final platform into the village I felt a part of that energy too. We can all push ourselves to try new adventures–whether ziplining, kite boarding (haven’t tried it yet, but I’m getting there), or doing live radio–facing our fears only makes us better people.

So I’m curious. What fears have you faced lately?

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Don’t Feel Guilty for Finding Meaning in Your Life

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Meaning

Catching Air

“Women feel guilty for being in flow,” according to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. “Men don’t ever feel that way.” I’ve been thinking about this comment ever since my interview with Mihaly yesterday, when he pointed out this vital gender difference in the pursuit of happiness.

Flow, for those that didn’t hear the show yesterday (it’s not too late, click here to listen; I’ll wait), happens when you are completely absorbed in the moment. The task is challenging, time slows down, you are totally focused, and the reward is the activity itself. In a word: your best moments. This is what gives your life meaning.

Which leads me to this question: Guilty? Women feel guilty for finding meaning in their lives? It sounds pretty ridiculous when you say it like that.

First a little context: Earlier I’d asked Mihaly a question about flow personality. Are some personality types more likely to get into flow than others? His comment was interesting. Individuals that are too self-conscious to lose themselves in an activity rarely get into flow. (I was thinking about teenagers here.)

Only later did he mention in an anecdote how often he encounters women when he gives his talks that say, “isn’t the pursuit of flow selfish?”

Gah.

Crystal_Mountain_Ski_Queens

Queens of the Hill

Granted, most of us have pretty busy lives. Most of us have others relying on us. Most of us don’t even have enough time to brush our teeth, let alone search for moments of freedom and transcendence.

But we should make time.

We all should make time to find flow NOT because it makes us better mothers, more enthusiastic partners or more capable employees/business owners/etc.

We should find flow because it makes life worth living. Get that? Flow states are what we live for.

I hear myself justifying my pursuit of happiness by how it will affect others. I’ll be a nicer person if I can go hike the King right now; I’ll make a better wife and step-mom if I get a few hours to work on my book this morning. I’m going to paddle the SUP for an hour, and then I will be nicer, kinder, calmer. Well, guess what?

That’s bullshit.

Instead, I should be finding flow activities because that’s what I want to do and it makes me happy, not because it will then make me a better person for others. As it turns out (hello?!) I’m not here for the exclusive betterment of those around me. I’m here for me.

Snow Angel

Snow Angel

Well, duh.

Men don’t feel guilty for being in flow. Why? Because its not a normal human reaction. That means that women, too, can shake off this pesky guilt and get after it. We can stop justifying our best moments and just say, “I’m going surfing because that’s what I want to do.”

Sure, when you get back from your surfing session (or making snow angels, or skiing or watching a sunset, or whatever gives you flow) you will probably make lunch for your kids. You’ll do all the other important tasks in your life, and you’ll probably be happy to do it. But just remember, that’s not why you need to follow your flow state. Flow is for you. Period.

So go out there today and find some flow and don’t justify it based on how it will help your spouse/kids/parents. Do it because it will make you happy and give your life meaning.

And that is reason enough.

Finding Flow in Action Sports

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Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

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Action Sports should adopt Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. They should claim him as one of their own, putting his face on bumper stickers and splashing his book covers on websites, blogs and twitter hashtags. Because Csikszentmihalyi, pronounced CHEEK-sent-me-HY-ee, a professor at Claremont Graduate University, invented the idea of flow.

What does flow have to do with action sports, you might ask?

Everything.

Csikszentmihalyi studies happiness. Flow provides our most optimal experiences. And almost everything about action sports is about getting into flow. According to Csikszentmihalyi, certain things have to happen for us to be in a flow state:

  • flow-theory-what-makes-a-good-game-77ai10fSkills must match the challenge: too easy and you get bored, too hard and you feel overwhelmed
  • Action and awareness merge: you become “one” with the wave/snow/single-track/wing
  • Feedback is immediate and unambiguous: you fall, you die (or else you get really, really hurt)
  • Concentration is essential: see feedback above
  • Sense of control: oddly you gain a sense of control even in the midst of what might appear a chaotic situation
  • Time either slows down or speeds up
  • Loss of self-consciousness: you focus solely on the moment and forget about your ego, your bills, your life outside the moment
  • The experience is autotelic: you are skiing, riding, flying, etc not for an external reward but solely for the experience itself
flow-the-psychology-optimal-experience

Csikszentmihalyi’s bestselling book FLOW

Have you ever lost yourself in the moment? If you’ve ever felt flow you know what I’m talking about. Skiing a hard line or mountain biking down a tight single-track requires intense concentration and skill. Time slows down, consequences are high, and we completely lose ourselves in the activity. We are in flow. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi wants you to feel flow more often.

Flow=happiness. And I bet that flow is the biggest motivation for pushing ourselves in our sports. I know that’s true for me. I’m not out there for the glory or to gather sponsorships (not that sponsors are kicking down my door to sign me). I’m out there for the experience itself. I’m out there for flow.

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Join me this week on The Edge Radio as I talk to the father of flow theory, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi about  flow, creativity and getting out on the edge. The show airs live Wednesday 8am pacific and will be available as a podcast a few hours after it airs. You don’t want to miss this one. Seriously.

Freedom in a Vertical World

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Andres Marin takes a stab at it

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Many climbers find freedom in the mountains. From scaling vertical walls of impenetrable ice and exploring high alpine glaciers to climbing granite walls, the vertical world offers environments found nowhere else on earth. But for Andres Marin, who grew up amidst a war torn Columbia, where local peaks were often closed to tourists, the mountains offer a different kind of freedom.

Climbing and exploring peaks around the world has allowed 29 year-old Marin to see beyond human conflict into a world of beauty and grandeur. Andres grew up in Ibaque Columbia and started climbing mountains at 16 years of age in the Andes.

Andres_Marin

Andres Marin, doing what he does best. Smiling.

It wasn’t until he moved to Colorado ten years ago, that he realized true freedom in the mountains. Andres works as a mountain guide and a professional climber. He has competed in five ice climbing world cups and two world championships. When not competing, Andres spends his time searching for new places to explore around the world, spending over 200 days a year in the mountains.

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Join me this Wednesday on The Edge Radio when I interview Andres about his life in the vertical world. His enthusiasm is a beacon-light for others to follow, and once you hear Andres talk, you’ll want to rush out and try ice climbing. Guaranteed.

Extreme Sports are Good for Your Health

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Dr. Eric Brymer

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According to psychologist Eric Brymer, extreme sports are good for you. Far from the realm of the “adrenaline junkie”, true extreme sports require intense focus and offer an opportunity for optimal experiences and even transcendence. Brymer narrowly defines “extreme sports” as one in which the most likely outcome of a mismanaged mistake is death. (While many athletes eschew the term “extreme” when referring to their sport, psychologists such as Brymer use the term to define a certain type of action sport.)

Brymer’s recent study showed that extreme athletes are actually better off than the rest of us. They have lower anxiety, are more independent and self-assertive and have a higher sense of reality. Anyone who takes part in risky action sports will most likely nod their heads in agreement. They will tell you, jumping/climbing/skiing/fill in the blank makes them a better person. My biggest fear is that I will get injured and sick and not be able to ski. Because a non-skiing Kim is an unpleasant beast, I assure you. But maybe it’s more than that. Perhaps, access to mountains and rivers and places to test our boundaries is an essential part of what it means to be human.

Brymer’s findings fly in the face of past research. Most psychologists have lumped sky-diving with gambling, reckless driving, and drug abuse, labeling anyone who participates in these activities as “sensation-seekers.” In essence, extreme athletes are on the same spectrum as heroine addicts, but their fix comes from a different “drug.” These folks need more thrill in part because their dopamine receptors vary in a way that requires a higher dose of fun in order to get the same kick.

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Do we NEED fear?

Brymer disagrees with this premise. He claims that extreme athletes are not looking for sensation, but other rewards such as a connection to nature and a better understanding of the self. This is big news in the very small world of extreme sport research.

Instead of the NO FEAR mentality so often associated with action sports media, Brymer claims that not only do his subjects feel fear, but that fear is a good thing to have. Fear, claims Brymer, is a clear reminder. It tells you to pay attention. It reminds you that this is important here. You can’t be on autopilot or making status updates on your phone. Not while you’re packing your parachute before jumping off a cliff, and not before kayaking off a thirty-foot waterfall.

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This week, I’m interviewing Dr. Brymer on The Edge Radio in hopes to learn more about his fascinating research. Join me on Wednesday at 8am pacific time.

Rowing Across the Atlantic

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Pat Fleming

Pat Fleming

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On January 23rd, 2013 Pat Fleming and a crew of three other rowers set off from the coast of Africa to row their open ocean self-supported boat across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas. The crew collected data, weathered storms, broke oars, and survived the maddening doldrums until just a few days from shore the worst happened. They were hit by a rogue wave and capsized.

The mission of the Africa to the Americas expedition, sponsored by the Canadian Wildlife Federation, was to row their 29 feet boat 3659 nautical miles from Dakar, Africa to Miami. Along the way the crew collected data to be used for education and other purposes.
Their main goal was to inspire others to seek their own adventures in the outdoors. Pat and his fellow crew members rowing in 2-4 hour shifts day in and day out. The trip was to take 60-80 days. On day 73, only a week away from Miami, the boat capsized and the crew was unable to right it.
The crew about the James Robert Hanssen

The crew about the James Robert Hanssen

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Listen in this week on The Edge Radio as Pat joins me to talk about this amazing adventure Wednesday morning live at 8am pacific.

If you have questions for the show, email me at kimberlykircher(at)gmail(dot)com or call in live at 1-888-346-9144. Can’t listen live? All shows are archived within a few hours and available anytime. Click here to see the archives.
Please spread the word about this show. Share this post on your social media sites. The archives are quickly filling in with some truly amazing stories that need to be shared.Know someone who’d be a great guest on the show? Shoot me an email at kimberlykircher(at)gmail(dot)com.

Freedom in a Wheelchair with Josh Dueck

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Imagine crashing off a ski jump and waking up paralyzed. Paralympian Josh Dueck lived through that nightmare and emerged a better man. Through hope borrowed from the words of his doctor, Josh knew that even though he’d be confined to a wheelchair for life, he didn’t have to give up skiing.

Josh Dueck

Josh Dueck

Instead he took to sit-skiing, and quickly become a dominant force in adaptive skiing. He recently returned to jumping, and landed the first ever backflip on a sit-ski. But Josh’s positivity and message of hope are even more inspiring than his amazing feats.

At first, simply getting out of bed was a struggle that required several breaks. Then, little by little, Josh dreamed of “rocking a sit ski” as his doctor promised that he would. Josh kindled that flame of hope until he would join the Canadian Ski Team in Vancouver and win a silver medal in the men’s slalom sit-ski event.

 

Like Josh before his accident, I too have feared the ultimate loss. What if I lost the use of my legs? What if I couldn’t ski anymore? Through a dark hole of fear and loss, Josh Dueck has emerged as an inspiration. He was recently named National Geographic’s Adventurer of the Year in skiing, and will join the Canadian Ski Team in Sochi. Through all of this, Josh has stayed open to his struggle, been honest about his emotions and emerged as a beacon of light for others to follow. I’m not sure that if I suffered the same accident I could return with such hope. That’s the beauty of putting ourselves out there–because it is often on the edge that we can glimpse our truest selves. And Josh Dueck’s true self has proven to be more golden than any medal.

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Join us this week on The Edge Radio as Josh talks about how he came back from his injury to inspire the world. The show airs at 8 a.m. pacific Wednesday morning.