Walking away from the Legon Botanical Gardens Rope Course in Accra, I was pleased with myself for taking part in this team building exercise with my work team mates. I had planned to be the team photographer but later joined in the fun. Building upper body strength, self-confidence and team building are some of the benefits listed on the signpost as you exit the course. Who would have thought I’d draw parallels between the rope course and life? It was the last thing on my mind. But as I reflected later during the ride home, I began to realize the many life lessons that were emphasized for me during the rope course. It all became so vividly clear. In no particular order, here are some of the life lessons I got from my time on the Legon Botanical Gardens Rope Course:
Your mind is a very powerful tool.
For an exercise that requires physical strength, I relied more on mental fortitude. Before I took my decision to get strapped up in the safety gear, I had made up my mind that I would complete the course with little hesitance.
Your mind decides primarily what you can and cannot do. It is important to guard it with your life. Be careful of what you allow into your mind. What are you reading, watching, who do interact with? Do you allow another person’s opinion of you to become your reality? Most times, to have a strong mind is better than to have strong body. A strong mind controls your whole being. Having both a strong mind and a strong body is priceless grace!
I must have made my decision to start about 30 mins after everyone else started. I stood at the bottom of the beams and took pictures as each one came up to start the course. Standing there gave me a tangible insight into what it would take to complete the task.
If not starting when you are expected to allows you to plan and prepare your mind, do it. Life is no race. I was more prepared than most once I began and even finished before some. I made up my mind to embrace the challenge and complete gracefully. I did not shout or scream because I told myself I will and had prepared my mind for what lay ahead.
Those who have gone ahead of you, have something you don’t yet have: experience.
By the time I was about half-way done with the task at hand, some had long finished and were back on the ground. They were motivating and cheering on those of us yet to complete. After each portion of the course, I shouted down “What is the technique for this stage?” and there was always someone who responded.
Doing the course required a lot of technique. How do you walk on a rope? Angle your foot to the left and right slightly such that the middle portion of your foot is touching the rope. This helps you balance.
In life, there is always someone who has completed that task you are about to undertake. Ask for help. Most people will willing show you how they did it. Learn from the experiences of others.
Tailor techniques to suit yourself: Do what works for you.
While it’s true that others who have gone ahead of you have experience, do what works for you. At one point, I realized someone else’s technique will not work best for me. I listened to the strategy behind it and adapted it to myself to complete that part.
It is important to recognize the fact that no two people are the same. What worked for the person whose advise you are seeking might not necessarily work for you. However, if you pay close attention to the reason why something was done in a particular way and not always how it was done, you will figure out what works for you.
A colleague shouted this up at me while I was mid-way on a particular portion of the Legon Botanical Gardens Rope Course. This first thing that came to mind was to balance my body before moving. I started to adjust my posture. But then, I heard “Steady yourself internally” and once I did, I took the next step with more confidence. It changed a lot when I was internally steady. I felt the difference. The task at hand became easier. Who you are is more than just your body. Acknowledge this.
Focus on the task at hand but plan ahead.
For each obstacle on the rope course, I looked at it, asked for help where needed and focused on completing it. At the end of the task, I would look further to see what lay ahead to prepare mentally for it. However, my main concentration was finishing what was before me.
Take a break.
I would have been worn out if I went from one task to another without breaks. But at the end of each task, there was a platform. For me, that platform was there for resting, re-strategizing.
Don’t overthink things.
Overthinking brings in a flood of negative emotions like doubt, anxiety, fear. Once you know you are capable, go for it. Going through many cycles of ‘’what if’s’’ de-motivates you. What if I fall? What if I get stuck in the middle of the rope course? I would not have started if I replayed these questions like a broken record.
It is very important to have this. What are your strengths,weaknesses? How would you leverage on your strengths? What can you do to compensate for your weaknesses? Take time to know yourself. And re-learn how you evolve. Experiences change us to an extent but the core of who we are remains constant.
Get your hands dirty and motivate others.
Sometimes standing on the side line and cheering people on doesn’t motivate them much. Take part and others will follow. I stood on the ground below the beams and shouted encouraging words to a colleague. However, he did not budge. When I joined the task, my colleague moved ahead and finished the task successfully.
Let the voices of the crowd in…sometimes.
Listen to the cheering crowd as you go from one step to another. Allow their voices in occasionally, but tune them out occasionally. Focus.
Sometimes the people around you do not know what you are capable of. When they begin to cheer you for the smallest obstacle overcome, do not let this get to your head. Allow it to encourage you to accomplish your full potential. Also, when you are too engaged with the crowd, you might lose focus on the task at hand.
Take heed to counsel.
Those around you may see a bigger picture which you can only see if you remove yourself from the task. Someone told me “put more of your weight on your legs, than you arms”. I then realized I had put my entire body weight on my arms. I shifted my weight and that made a lot of difference. My arms are aching now for all the time I put my weight on them without realizing. It could have been worse if I did not listen to counsel.
Annatu Abdulai is an impact driven professional with four years of experience supporting early stage high potential businesses in various sectors in Ghana to improve their business models and access growth capital.
Photo Credit: Anna Abdulai.