Resilience: Can you ever be prepared?
Every guide about the North Island of New Zealand tells you about the “Tongariro Alpine Crossing”. A 19,5 km trail through the 1.978 m high Tongariro. What they also say is, that the weather should be fine for this trip. Knowing all that we were prepared for the trip: as Austrians we know what a hiking tour in that dimension needs as equipment (hiking boots, waterproof jackets and trousers, warm hats, long underwear, sunglasses etc.). The guy of the basecamp told us the evening before that the weather might be windy and rainy, exactly for that day, January 3 that we planned for our Tongariro Crossing. This was all the information we had, as there was no mobile network coverage in the mountains up there. The morning was windy, but sunny and we decided to do the hike.
Feeling well prepared we drove to the endpoint of the route. A shuttle would bring us to the start of the route. 100% equipped we wondered about other hikers. The majority was in shorts and caps with a small backpack. We even laughed about ourselves having big backpacks and equipment for all kinds of weather. The sun still shining. The longer the shuttle bus drove the rainier and darker the weather became. Within 30 minutes from sunshine to rain and fog. It became quiet in the bus, nevertheless we again decided to take the hike. And it started quite comfortable for the first 2 hours, although we had no sight at all (actually we did the whole expedition because of the sight).
Then the hard part of the track began: the slope, heavy winds and rain. We still felt well prepared and equipped: with our rain jackets and boots and our experience in hiking. So we took a short break in order to eat a sandwich and moved on. Always in the crowd with less equipped people, wondering how they kept going and being in a good mood while getting wet and cold. Trying to keep our own psychological immune system up and running while steadily quitting our comfort zone. From now on I stepped directly into my personal panic zone, as the winds became so strong, that I could hardly stand and the slope became steeper and steeper. With the abyss right beside me.
So I started to focus on what I could trust in that situation: my experience in hiking and my well trained legs (from climbing), my equipment, my husband who weighs 30 kilos more than me and was holding me on my backpack in order to stay on track and my persistence. What made me feel insecure was the fact that I could not get back to trained routines or former experiences in order to handle the current situation. It was my “first time”. And it felt like that. So I lost all my optimism that I would have needed for this situation: I put negative energy on myself (even realizing that this would not help). I started to become really angry for bringing myself in such a situation. Starting such a tour despite rain and fog. “Knowing” from my childhood on, that bad weather in the mountains is a big threat.
What I could have done instead? Accept my own decision and find a way of stabilizing myself to bring me back into my growth zone at least, in order to be an optimistic and focused partner for my husband and myself for the rest of the tour. I would have needed that for the top of the peak with its steep and gravel slope down, full of volcano pebbles for like 300 meters.
Having “survived” this, we still had like 10 kilometers to go — 7,5 hours in total. Needless to say that I reached the end of the hike totally exhausted and happy to be safe, but aware of the next challenge for growing myself. A big thank you to my resilient husband that kept calm and took care of me!
Here comes the point for developing my own resilience: I *knew* bad weather the mountains is dangerous, but I never had made the *experience* before: that challenging experience! It was a big difference between anticipating bad weather and being right in the middle of that storm, that brought me physically and psychologically to my limits. A status I am not used to.
What I learned from that situation? If I compare this chaotic situation to my daily business it reminds me of digital disruption phenomena: we are all expecting it, anticipating how that could feel, but not preparing as human beings. Personal resilience can and has to be trained. It´s all about acceptance of the current situation, optimism based on one´s own strengths, self-efficacy, taking responsibility, networking, solution orientation and your clear vision for the future. A matter of training and self-development. I decided for the exercise “Moment of Excellence” to start with… and you?