This piece was in my latest coaching newsletter and several people wrote to me about so I’ve added it here, in an edited version.
On a recent sunny day, I went to an end-of-summer amusement park with friends and we rode one of the thrilling roller-coasters. As we looped around, getting tossed about in our seats, my palms got sweaty and I wondered to myself how interestingly similar this was to completing the “Our Thoughts On Aging” interview project.
It has been six years in the making and finally it is here: I am writing the final chapters of the book, the storied interviews have gone through their first manuscript edit, the artwork for the book cover is in progress, the “As I Get Older” greeting cards and poster are completed, the new RT Coaching website is launched with an online store, and the book will be published in — I hope — early 2017.
What a roller coaster ride it has been, and that is true for anything we mostly choose to start:
a life stage, a goal or dream, a project or business, a diploma or degree, a new health habit or lifestyle, a career change or residential move. Strap yourself in and hold onto the handrail ‘cause it’s going to be a heck of a ride.
It starts off gently enough and soon you are climbing upwards, ever so slowly, and when you reach the magnificent height of the apex, you can see the beautiful big perspective where the view will catch your breath. The view is sweet from this high.
Not a moment later, the roller coaster ride thrillingly swooshes you to the deepest low giving you an adrenalin rush, sweaty palms and a jolt to your stomach so intense you think you might vomit. You can’t believe how fast the ride took you down. It’s The Dip.
Then you’re heading for another slow climb, not as high this time, slow enough to release the handrail and wipe your sweaty palms dry just in time for the next plunge. Only this time you’re hurtling forward upside-down in some gravity-defying position. No words can describe the rush that comes with putting yourself “out there”.
And in between the climbs and dips, there are the hair-pin turns. Sometimes you can see them coming and sometimes they catch you by surprise, jostling you about sharply and shaking your equilibrium.
Finally, finally you see the end of the ride approaching. As you disembark, you feel a simultaneous sense of joy and relief, depending on how intense the jolts, upside-down twists and hurtling-towards-the-ground manoeuvres landed for you. Your wobbly legs grateful to touch land as you leave the thrilling ride behind.
As you glance back at the roller coaster, you can see the twists and turns, the steep slopes and enormous dips you were on. You are suspended for a moment in disbelief or awe, perhaps wondering about the next one you might go on.
Unlike a roller coaster ride though, when we start something new we can’t see the entire ride or know how long our ride will take. This is what makes it scary thrilling, this element of the unknown. Figuring out how to go with it is part of the ride, of life and of change.
However, there are safety mechanisms and systems set up for roller coaster rides. It includes a team of people staffing it to make sure that safety is enforced, like the man who was doing calisthenics as he waited for our ride to approach the return gate. We need safety systems, and they can be amusing too, for those challenging and thrilling rides we go on in life.
When I planned to complete this interview project and transform it into a book, poster and greeting cards, I needed to find the people — professionals, colleagues, friends, and family — to support me on my ride. I also needed tools and resources that gave me structure and accountability, lifestyle habits that nourished, energized and motivated me, and celebrations to acknowledge the teeny tiny steps taken.
Completing the ride, we walk away with that experience in our toolkit. We know what it feels like. We have the confidence that we can handle it or what we need in order to handle it the next time. We know we can do it again if we choose to or go on a different one — maybe less scary, maybe scarier — the next time. It’s the personal growth ride of transitions!
What transition(s) in your life have felt like a wild roller coaster ride?
What and/or who helped you on your ride?
What would you do differently next time?!