Imagine jumping off a 30-ft cliff into frigid water. Now imagine doing it as a 64-year old grandmother! Maggie took a literal leap that taught her the value of pushing herself and how loving the world can be.
Please share your story… what was your leap?
I was participating in a leadership development workshop for a week in Kananaskis, Alberta a few years ago, and during the week we were each invited to participate in a series of challenges based on three elements – earth, fire, and water. I had successfully completed the challenges with the earth and fire themes, but the water one was a bigger obstacle for me for a number of reasons. I didn’t know how to swim and had never been a big fan of being in the water, let alone frigid white water.
Despite my discomfort with water, I decided to participate in the white water rafting expedition. While in the middle of the river we successfully balanced on the gunnels of the raft as a group and made a full circle around the raft without falling in the water. I figured we were done, the water element successfully conquered.
Little did I know that the real challenge was still to come. At lunchtime we tied up at a landing surrounded by cliffs. Our instructor invited us to climb two different cliffs, one ten feet high, one thirty feet high, and jump into the frigid raging water with no life jacket. At age 64, with my new grandbaby due the next day and hip replacement surgery in the offing, I had no intention of doing a thirty-foot cliff jump. The ten-foot one seemed manageable and I was very proud of myself for doing that, but there was no way I was going to do the big one.
What inspired you to take this leap?
My accountability partner from the program invited me to go with her to the top of the thirty-foot cliff, just to have a look, even though I had clearly told her I wasn’t going to jump. It wasn’t an easy hike scrambling over boulders to get up there, and with her skillful questioning, I began to think about what it would mean to me as a leader if I accomplished this feat. I realized that it would mean that I could break through some of my limiting beliefs and accomplish so much more than I thought I was capable of.
I became aware of a very clear conversation happening between my head and my heart as I went to the edge of the cliff to check out the terrain.
My head was telling me all the reasons not to – good reasons, based in logic and caution. But my heart was telling me to trust the experience, to surrender, to imagine how much more I would have to offer in the world if I accomplished this. The feeling in my head was sharp and dissonant, but my heart was calm and encouraging. Ultimately I went with my heart.
What is it that made this a leap for you?
Well, besides the fact that it was a literal leap and I was a grandmother who couldn’t swim, it challenged me to think about how I saw myself in the world, and how I could show up in an even bigger way by following my heart. Both on the climb up and while waiting for a passing boat before it was safe to jump, I had time to really feel into what I was doing.
I can clearly remember standing at the edge of the cliff listening alternatively to my head and my heart, and then surrendering to my heart, but I have no recollection of actually leaping off the edge – only of entering the water.
Then the panic set in when I realized I’d have to get myself out of the deep water, having sunk much deeper from the jump than I anticipated. Because I’m not a swimmer, once I got myself to the surface, I did what I knew how to do – turn on my back and float. It wasn’t until I heard the shouts of my colleagues on the shore that I realized I’d have to swim; floating was taking me out with the fast moving current of the river. I did some sort of side-stroke till I got to the pullout point, numb from the freezing cold water despite my wetsuit. Exhausted, I was ready to get out of that water!
It was then that I realized the people in my group weren’t going to pull me out; I needed to get myself up onto the rocks. They made a bridge around me so I wouldn’t get pulled back out into the current and they offered tons of encouragement and support, but I had to be the one to finish this and haul myself out of the water.
I knew then that I was not going to be rescued, and that I had what I needed to get myself out. They weren’t going to let me drown, but they were going to support me to finish. When I hauled myself up on to those rocks, the sun literally broke through the clouds and a huge cheer went up all along the cliffs.
What was the best part of the experience?
Living it every day. I am aware that I can do more than I ever thought I could. It has become so embodied in me that no one can take this knowing from me.
Looking back at the leap you made, is there anything you’d do differently if you were doing it again?
I wouldn’t have been so resistant to doing the jump. I had built up some capacity from the challenges earlier in the week so I was already far more capable than I had been at the beginning of the week. I could also have asked for help in a more forthcoming way sooner; that might have made it easier to get through the resistance.
What did you learn about yourself from taking this leap? About the world around you, if anything?
I’ve always been very positive but I learned that the world around me is even more supportive and loving than I’ve allowed it to be.
If you had to describe what making this leap has done for you in one sentence, what would you say?
I believe this leap has made me a better servant leader because I know that I can make inspired decisions from my heart and trust that source of wisdom. I also know that when I tell my story I can inspire people to trust their intuition and follow their heart.
Is there anything else you want to share about your experience?
I wish everyone could have that kind of opportunity – it was an amazing experience.
In 1998, Maggie left a 30 year teaching career and a tenured position at a college to become a proud professional network marketer. She is an independent wellness consultant with the Japan Health Research Institute (Nikken) where her role is to inspire others to create a balanced life and become the best they can be. She can be found online at www.maggie-mckee.com and on twitter as @maggiannmckee