Saying Yes to Help

Apr 4, 2024 | Coaching, Leadership

My family and I just returned from four days of hiking out West in the beautiful, mountainous surroundings of Zion National Park. I never professed to be a hiker, and I have a serious aversion to heights, but my 22-year-old son put in a request, and it felt like the right thing to do.

I was fine on the first day, when we tried out the easier hikes that had safety railings. I could watch my feet and also be mesmerized by the beauty of the striated cliffs and canyons around us. On Day 2, however, we set out for Scout’s Lookout, designated as “strenuous” with a warning “not for people with a fear of heights.” I didn’t want to miss out on the family outing, so I ignored that precaution.

The hike fit its description well. It was strenuous, with a gain of 1,000 feet, and vertiginous, with 21 switchbacks and sheer drop-offs everywhere. I decided that denial was a wonderful coping skill and stuck to the inner wall, purposely keeping my gaze fixed at my feet. Finally, after a sweaty hour, we reached a plateau where people were resting and munching on snacks. Great, I thought, I made it.

But no.

Above, there was another 15 feet of rock ledge. That was the actual summit and where you’d see the view of the canyon, with the full vertical falling off below you.

The rest of my family scurried up. I dropped my pack at my feet. “I’ll wait for you here,” I said.

Ten minutes later they rejoined me, glorifying the view. “You’ve got to see this,” they said. “Nope,” I told them. “I really don’t.” I was convinced that I was unable to climb those last few feet, especially in such close proximity to the edge.

“Mom,” my son said gently. “Give me your hand. I’ll help you.”

I looked at him for a moment and noticed my default message take over: “I don’t need help; if I can’t do it on my own, then I won’t.”

But something in his kindness led me to reach out my hand. He’s not a huge fan of heights either, so I knew he understood my hesitancy.

It turns out I didn’t need his physical help climbing up to the summit, but I sure needed his company. His presence made it possible for me to move beyond what I believed was possible for me.

The view was spectacular.

On our last day, I asked my son which hike was his favorite. “Scout’s Lookout, the hardest one,” he said. I had to agree. It was invigorating to overcome my fear. I found myself grateful to have had the experience—and to have accepted the help offered to me.

If you’re like me and your default is going it alone, what might you be missing out on by avoiding help? Where might accepting it move you forward in your life?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ]

Diane W. Shannon

MD, MPH, ACC

Diane Shannon is an award-winning writer, author, and coach. Since leaving practice as a primary care physician due to burnout, she has worked to support physicians in achieving their personal and professional goals and to highlight the changes needed to reduce burnout, improve career satisfaction, and protect the bidirectional healing power of the patient-physician relationship.

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