Would You Follow Your Friends Off a Cliff?

Much to my surprise, I did just that while hiking Shrine Ridge near Vail, Colorado.

Shrine Ridge is a fantastic hike that I’ve done many times. You start at 11,000 feet, climb to just over 12,000, and end on a summit with spectacular views. Although the last mile is a bit of a huff-and-puff, the path is mostly hard-packed dirt and easy to navigate.

At the top, you have a panoramic view of the mountains, including a large, craggy rock formation across the valley.

On this trip, we were with friends who were hiking Shrine Ridge for the first time. We took a break at the top to eat lunch and enjoy the views. So far, so good.

But what I hadn’t considered is that my friend Lori is part mountain goat. Seriously.

As soon as I looked at those rocks, I knew she’d be scampering down the steep valley wall and back up the other side. She can’t help herself! But the thing I hadn’t expected was that her partner, bad knees and all, would take off after her, and my husband would then hop up and say, “I’m going too.”

Okay, what you need to know about me is that I have NO mountain goat in me, and I’m not a physical risk taker. In a normal state of mind, there’s zero chance I’d have followed them.

But when they all took off, I got triggered.

I felt like I was being abandoned. (Not rational, but triggers aren’t.)

We had no meet-up plan.

All I could think of was that I had two crappy choices, and I had to make an instantaneous decision before they were out of sight.

My crappy choices?

Follow them, which felt insane and more than a little risky; or stay behind and end up back at the car with no idea where they were, when they’d be back, or if someone got hurt. (Yeah, I get how neurotic that sounds.)

My choice, made with a great deal of grouchiness? Stay with the pack and go over the cliff.

On very shaky legs I made it down to the valley. (Hallelujah!) Lori did indeed scurry up the rock formation while the rest of us rambled around the valley. Eventually, we all started climbing back up towards the path.

And then, about 20 feet from the top, I got stuck.

Totally and completely stuck … and terrified. I was on a patch of loose dirt, couldn’t get a hand- or foot-hold on anything, and all I could do was stay crouched on all fours so I wouldn’t go tumbling down.

I did make it back to the path, fortunately, unscathed and with nothing more than a bruised ego, but I was pissed. At myself.

I’d backed myself into a corner by thinking I had two unacceptable choices and not hitting the pause button to give myself time to come up with other options. Truth is there were at least two other options: ask my husband to stick with me or establish a meet-up plan if I hiked back to the car on my own.

All these years later the lessons of that day still stay with me:

  • There are always options, but you might have to hit the pause button in order to see them.
  • Just because the rest of your pack wants to go in one direction doesn’t mean that’s the right choice for you.

Even if you never find yourself standing at the edge of a physical cliff, the reality is that you’re likely to bump into a similar choice in everyday life.

When you’re ready to make a bold move, pursue a dream, set new boundaries, show up authentically, stand in your power, or any other scenario in which you feel pulled between what you want and what everyone/anyone else thinks, you’re standing at the edge of a metaphorical cliff.

It’s normal to feel that pull, and there’s nothing wrong with considering advice, input, and concerns from people you trust and respect. But ultimately, it’s your life and your choices.

So next time you feel stuck, torn between sticking with your pack or staying true to yourself, give yourself time and the mental and emotional space to get clear on what’s right for you.

It takes strength and courage to forge your own path. You have enough of both!

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” ~ Meg Cabot