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Living on the Edge: Finding Clarity and Strength in Uncharted Territory

Written by Debra Olshan Cooper,
President and Founder of Your Career Design lab

There’s something incredibly exhilarating about pushing beyond our comfort zones. Whether it’s hiking solo through the rugged trails of Park City, Utah, or navigating the challenges of a new career, living on the edge offers us the chance to discover strengths we never knew we had. Recently, I experienced this firsthand. During a trip with friends, one of them fell ill with altitude sickness, prompting me to venture out on my own. After two and a half hours of hiking, I found myself not only more attuned to the natural beauty around me but also to the parallels between this adventure and our professional journeys. Here’s how living on the edge, whether on a mountain trail or in the career landscape, can lead to profound personal and professional growth.

Park City, Utah, USA downtown at dusk.

Recognizing and Overcoming Altitude Sickness: A Metaphor for Career Challenges

Altitude sickness is an excellent metaphor for the unexpected challenges we face in our careers. When my friend became ill, I realized how crucial it is to recognize the symptoms and take appropriate action. Altitude sickness manifests through headaches, dizziness, nausea, and shortness of breath—similar to how career obstacles can leave us feeling disoriented and overwhelmed.

Identifying Symptoms:

  • Headaches and Confusion: Just as headaches signal altitude sickness, feeling confused or unsure in your career can indicate it’s time to reassess your path.
  • Dizziness and Loss of Direction: When you’re uncertain about your career direction, it’s akin to feeling dizzy at high altitudes. It’s essential to pause, evaluate, and regain your bearings.
  • Nausea and Discomfort: Career discomfort can manifest as job dissatisfaction or burnout. Recognize these signs early to prevent long-term unhappiness.
  • Shortness of Breath: Feeling overwhelmed by work tasks is like experiencing shortness of breath at high altitudes. It’s a signal to slow down and seek support.

In both scenarios, acknowledging these symptoms early on and taking proactive steps can make all the difference.

Embracing Solitude: The Power of Self-Discovery

During my solo hike, I found solace in the solitude. Without the distractions of conversation, I was able to reflect deeply on my surroundings and my thoughts. This quiet time was a reminder of the importance of self-discovery and introspection in our careers.

Benefits of Solitude:

  • Clarity and Focus: Solitude allows us to clear our minds and focus on what truly matters, just as hiking alone lets us tune into the natural world.
  • Personal Growth: Time alone fosters personal growth, enabling us to understand our strengths and areas for improvement better.
  • Creative Problem-Solving: Without the noise of external opinions, solitude encourages innovative thinking and creative solutions.

Finding Balance: Harmonizing Work and Life

Balancing the demands of a challenging hike with the need to enjoy the journey parallels the importance of work-life balance in our careers. After reaching a scenic viewpoint, I took a moment to rest, breathe, and appreciate the stunning landscape, a reminder of why finding balance is crucial.

Achieving Balance:

  • Prioritizing Self-Care: Just as rest is essential during a hike, self-care is crucial in maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
  • Setting Boundaries: Knowing when to push forward and when to rest is key, both on the trail and in our careers.
  • Enjoying the Journey: Taking time to appreciate the beauty around us makes the journey worthwhile, much like finding joy in our professional endeavors.

Conclusion: Embracing the Edge for Growth and Fulfillment

Living on the edge, whether through adventurous hikes or ambitious career moves, offers unparalleled opportunities for growth and self-discovery. Recognizing and overcoming challenges, embracing solitude, and finding balance are all vital aspects of this journey. As we navigate the rugged terrains of our careers, let’s remember that stepping out of our comfort zones and venturing into the unknown can lead to the most rewarding experiences and profound personal growth. Just as my solo hike in Park City revealed the beauty of the natural world, living on the edge of our careers can uncover our true potential and pave the way for a fulfilling and successful professional life.

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