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Why it’s Important to Test our Edges

Las Torres del Paine National Park

One of the most physically challenging experiences I have ever had was climbing to the base of the namesake towers in Las Torres del Paine National Park with my husband. My pedometer clocked 12.8 miles round trip from Hotel Las Torres at 443 feet in elevation to the base at 2,870 feet in elevation and back. It was basically like climbing a ladder straight up and then straight down for 10 hours.

We departed at sunrise and returned to the hotel right as the sun was setting. I almost didn’t make it.

In the last two miles of the ascent, it felt more like rock climbing than hiking. On a few occasions, I relied on my hands and arms because my legs were simply giving way. I stopped more and more frequently as the space between us and the members of our tour group increased.

It was in these moments, I wanted to quit. I wanted to give up. My fearful mind told me, “You’re not strong enough. You can’t do this. It’s too far. You’ll never make it.”

The other voice I heard was that of my husband’s, who said, “You can do it. You got this. Just a little farther. We can stop as often as you need to as long as we commit to continue. We came too far to give up now.”

He was right. We traveled 6,668 miles to visit Patagonia. We trained for months leading up to this trip. We looked forward to this hike and testing the edges of our capabilities.

We challenge ourselves not because we’re masochists, but because we want to stretch ourselves. We want to reach farther. We can’t know what we’re capable of if we don’t. We dream bigger and push ourselves because it brings us alive.

When I told myself that I could do it, I did. If I let myself believe I couldn’t, I would also prove myself right. It was all in my perception.

When we reached the base, my joy and sense of pride was immense (not to mention my relief)! We had done it! We made it to the top! While the view was incredible, our sense of accomplishment was even greater.

In ancient cultures, especially that of native Americans, tribe members who came of age would set out on vision quests as a rite of passage. They would be left on their own far away from their village to test their competences. Up to that point, it was merely potential. Returning to their village, they knew their edges, their personal strengths and how these contributions would best serve their community.

The next time you experience a daunting challenge, ask yourself this, “What is this trying to teach me? What am I gaining from this experience? How will I feel once I’ve overcome it?”

My hunch is, you’ll find your personal power and one more reason why you are absolutely necessary to this world.