What creates a gap between saying I want to do something, and actually doing it?
I’ve been pondering that since our first trip to the Adirondack Mountains last month. We both love mountain hiking and had talked about getting there for several years. Why on earth had it taken us so long to make this trip happen?
Looking back, I realize we were daunted by what I call the “newness factor.” While we’ve each done quite a bit of hiking over the years, we haven’t done much snow shoeing, and we were completely unfamiliar with the Adirondacks. Every time we sat down to plan a trip, a long list of questions popped up: “What part of the park should we focus on? what trails are suitable for our level? where should we stay? what additional gear might we need for the conditions? What are the safety considerations?” We’d get overwhelmed and put it off.
One day it hit me: “We need help!” And at last, we started to make progress. We consulted a friend who knows the Adirondacks intimately, having hiked dozens of peaks and trails there. She helped us with lists of places to stay, trails to try, essential winter gear, and maps. Our packs were too old, too big, or too small, so we replaced those. We acquired hiking poles, topographical maps, and a thermos. We went to Trader Joe’s and bought enough high-fat cold weather energy foods like salami and cheese to feed an Arctic expedition.
A challenging, fantastic trip
We found a great place to stay in Saranac Lake, got ourselves there with all our gear, cheese, and salami, and set out the next morning early on a popular snow shoe route, reputed to be stunningly beautiful, to a frozen lake at the base of sheer cliffs in the High Peaks Wilderness area.
I’m in good shape, but the day turned out to be downright grueling. I developed a bad blister early on and we took a wrong turn which lengthened the trip to 11 miles. Eight hours on the trail pushed us both to our physical and mental limits. Yet I was never scared or overwhelmed, because we had done our homework. We were responsibly “geared up” for winter, and we knew where we were.
Most important, completing the route left me with a tremendous sense of accomplishment and showed me what we needed to do next time to make it even more fun.
For HSPs, newness may be associated with overwhelm and shame
It’s a reality that for the 70 % of HSPs who (like me) are not high-sensation-seeking, newness can equate with overwhelm. And a second layer over that—fear of the overwhelm— is an issue we may have to deal with as HSPs, if we were shamed as kids for holding back in new situations or simply not supported in coping with our response to the newness. If that’s the case for you, then confronting newness may leave you not only as risk of overwhelm, but also feeling vulnerable or raw .
The thing is, while overwhelm can be unpleasant, missing out on experiences you might love due to the fear of getting overwhelmed (or the fear of shame) is arguably even worse. That’s why I’ve shared our snowshoe story to show how we found a way—by seeking help and preparing with care, in this case— to overcome the “newness factor.” In this week’s 9-minute video, I offer more specific insights about newness and how to handle it: