3 lessons skiing has taught me about personal growth

“Why does doing new things have to be sooo hard??”

I found myself spastically asking myself this question the other day as I navigated myself up and down a mountain in Alaska’s Turnagain Pass. My husband and I picked up backcountry skiing during lockdown last year and it’s become our new favorite activity – for better or worse.

I’m in decent shape and a decent skier, if we’re talking about resort skiing. But put me on a mountain that I have to CLIMB up first, then ski down in choppy, new-to-me terrain, and all of a sudden I feel like I’m the slowest, worst skier on the planet.

And all the other speedsters around me doing their perfect turns just further emphasize the “fact” of my awfulness (as told by my not-so-helpful brain).

In the middle of the moment, it can feel very, very hard.

It’s fascinating.

When I look at my experience as a new backcountry skier from a coach’s perspective, I can clearly see the characteristics of being in the growth zone.

I see how my old self is trying to maintain her comfort zone and self-concept. I see the argument between her and the self that I am becoming. I see the thoughts and the feelings that try to hold me back and I notice the things that help me move forward.

Most importantly, I see that by understanding the growth process in this one area, I get better at growing in other areas (hallelujah)!

So, I’m not just learning how to backcountry ski, I’m learning how to become someone bigger than I am in whatever area I choose to grow in.

This is important stuff and  I want to share this with you!

3 lessons skiing has taught me about personal growth

1. Choose to show up again and again, even when it’s hard and a little embarrassing

When you step out of your comfort zone and into new-to-you territory, you might feel:

  • Discomfort
  • Awkwardness
  • Embarrassment
  • Shame
  • Fear

These are a normal part of growth. However, biologically, our bodies want to stay comfortable so you may feel a strong pull to avoid those feelings. Sometimes we mistakenly take them as a sign that we should quit…. this is the only way to guarantee that you won’t make progress.

Learn to see uncomfortable emotions as part of the process of growth and take action anyways.

The more consistent you are with taking action, the more consistent your growth will be. And to take consistent action, you have to allow uncomfortable feelings to be present.

Don’t try to fix them or avoid them or give in to them.

Appreciate them for what they are – signs that you’re in the growth zone.

And then keep going.

2. Get to know the voices in your head and decide which ones are worth believing

If the mind chatter in your brain is anything like mine as I clumsily ski up and down a mountain, then, first of all, I’m sorry your brain is so mean!

Mine constantly tells me things like:

  • You’re so slow
  • This is hard
  • I can’t wait to be off this mountain

These thoughts happen automatically and reflect some of the deeper beliefs I have about myself. These beliefs want to keep me safe – and small. Learning to overcome them has been a big focus of my life and it makes sense that they would pop up when I am in a growth zone. I’m doing something new and complicated and amazing, after all. It’s a whole new level of what’s possible and I’m just at the beginning, comparing myself to other people’s lifelong experience, sheesh.

When you’re doing something new, your brain can tell you all kinds of unhelpful thoughts that come disguised as observations or “truth” about yourself and others. When you listen to them and allow them to guide your decision making, it usually results in you getting in your own way (and feeling terrible).

Becoming aware of what these thoughts are and identifying them as just a pattern of thought (instead of THE TRUTH) can be incredibly empowering.

This is because that same thought pattern probably pops up in other areas of your life, causing you to hold back or quit.

When you know what your pattern is, you can start to identify it before it starts making your decisions for you.

You can say “oh, there’s that thought of ‘I’m not good/smart/strong/extroverted enough’ again. I knew it would pop up! And that’s ok.”.

Knowing the voices in your head and not believing them takes a lot of awareness and practice. But since I know you’ll be in the growth zone a lot, you’ll get plenty of opportunity to improve this skill!


3. Confidence doesn’t just come from seeing improvement

Of course, when your performance improves, your confidence usually follows. This is a great argument for having a consistent practice at whatever change you’re trying to make.

However, alongside this is the belief that you have in yourself, independent of your level of improvement.

This is called “self-confidence” because it doesn’t depend on anything external to you but, rather, comes from your beliefs about yourself. It looks like choosing to cultivate one of those voices in your head that says things like:

  • You can totally figure this out
  • You’re learning how to do this and getting better every time you do
  • You might be slow but who cares? You’re out here on a mountain and that’s amazing!
  • No matter how much I fall, I can still have fun
  • I’m happy to be here, no matter how hard it is

Self-confidence is basically just being supportive of yourself.

You can do this by choosing your thoughts, creating situations that support you or giving yourself self-care.

One fun hack for helping you feel more confident is to surround yourself with people who support you no matter what. Hearing someone else say “I’m proud of you” or “you did great” can be so much easier to believe than when we say it to ourselves. Hint: by offering these same words often to others, you will make it easier to receive them yourself.

P.S. Coaching is one of the best ways to overcome habits that hold you back and make a change that you’ve been desiring finally happen. Whether you’re ready for a career shift, better relationships or to just feel more confident and alive, I can help you get there. Sign up for a free coaching consult to take the next step.