So last week - I had a new 'first' in my life! I walked across the desert from Al Ain to Abu Dhabi. We were supposed to do 120km but unusual stormy weather across the UAE cancelled 2 days of our journey. The experience was such a mix bag of emotions. From exciting and nerves at the beginning, too 'I don't want to do this anymore' in the middle, too feeling overwhelmed and teary that we had achieved our objective at the end.
The Women Heritage Walk
The Women’s Heritage Walk (WHW) from Al Ain to Abu Dhabi honors the women of the United Arab Emirates who made this journey twice a year not so long ago. Forty-four women retraced this historical trek. Expat women accompanied Emirati women walking in the footsteps of their ancestors who helped sculpt this country. This experience was a celebration of the past and an invitation to shape a vibrant future.
My 'Sand sisters' and I took on the dunes of the desert and during the whole walk I was able to assimilate many feelings and thoughts that I could relate back to daily life for women as entrepreneurs! Women pushing forward, making change and taking action to evolve and grow. Through this journey I noted words and phrases said by the ladies that reflected life and our work life and how it doesn't matter what you are doing there are key skills that apply everywhere!
Skill 1: One step at a time
When you walk through the hottest points of the day the mental power to give up is so strong! I struggled the most between 130pm - 430pm and I really had to fight my mind's awful word stream of 'just give up'. My mind was awful! clearly not with the event and clearly looking for the easy way out! I was very aware of my mind's words and it took all my strength to fight back and not give up. I kept saying 'one more step, one more step'. Each step was a step closer to my goal of the next 'top of the hour' break. Once I had that 10 minute break I was able to go on but I would cycle that behaviour pretty much at that time of day. I think as women entrepreneurs when times are tough at the yearning to give up is strongest its at that point you have to take one step at a time and take it slow! We don't want to give up the journey, we are just frustrated with this phase and if we did give up I think we would be disappointed! So my advise when things are tough, remember to take 'one step at a time'
Skill 2: Move forward.... Adjust.... move forward.... adjust
Our walk was supposed to be 120km but like I said we lost 2 days due to extreme weather. It was at this point the event's team, escape events and the founder of the WHW, Jody Ballard had to make some tough decisions and they communicated that too us. They sat and surveyed all potential options open to us and finally they made the choices that would be served up on day 2 and day 3 of the event and what the plan would be for day 4 & 5. They consistently moved forward and adjusted to work with the options open to them so that we could still work towards our objective. As a walker, we had to adjust too and deal with what was happening. The weather situation was outwith our control. In life its the same, we can't control what happens around us, we must work and adjust what we can, to allow us to still achieve our objectives and move forward. We could have said, 'the walk is finished'. We could have felt beaten and disappointed but we sort solutions by adjusting and moving forward. Think of where you are now and where you need to adjust to move forward. You may not be seeing an opportunity.
Skill 3: Dealing with Disappointment
As an entrepreneur disappointment is a regular thing and can make things very stressful! We put our heart and soul into something, only for it to collapse, break, get messed up... whatever! Its disappointing. That is how we felt on day 2 of the walk. The extreme weather conditions in the desert on day 1 was a disappointment. Suddenly the rain, thunder, lightening were just hammering down on us and it wasn't letting up. Jody called the walk off and our back up team sprang into action to save us. At that point we had walked nearly 25km. 5km of which [I think] were through this weather. I was drenched. I didn't carry a raincoat as I don't own one!! [I live in a desert...why would I need one??] but here I was cold and drenched. My goosebumps had goosebumps and the walk was all over for that day. Our camp was waterlogged and windblown so we had to return to the hotel where the event started. Disappointment kicked in, when Jody and the Events team said that the walk would be off the following day and possibly the next! All our training, effort and dedication just seemed wasted and disappointment was pretty much written on everyone's faces!! But as women we found the strength to look beyond this moment. We embraced our disappointment and the group went about turning the disappointment into an opportunity. First we were very thankful to the team and the quick thinking of Escape Events to get a new plan sorted asap and get us somewhere dry. Second we saw this as a 'memory moment'. How often in the UAE do we find ourselves in extreme weather like that. We smiled, laughed, shared our stories of fighting the wind, rain and hail [apparently]. When we couldn't do the walk on day 2 we went to visit a few museums in Al Ain and learnt more about the UAE History instead. We embraced our moment. As women entrepreneurs we must be able to do the same with our own disappointments. Embrace, review, refocus and turn it into an opportunity. Now I know when the cards are down that can be hard but if you are aware and open to the thought..... amazing things can happen.
Skill 4: Stress Management & Reaching out for Help
So when we finally got walking again on day 4 we [unbelievably] covered 37km. We covered more distance but I had to stop walking briefly at two points on day 4. Firstly, I had a headache at 230pm in the afternoon and secondly because of blisters. The headache was just a blip on the trail and within 30 minutes I was back in action again feeling refreshed and headache free. The blisters on the other hand were a different matter. . Through out all the training we had done, I never got blisters. I brought blister gear with me but for me it was a low risk worry! But... hey ho.... I got 4 of them!!! ugh!!!!! On our last day we had nearly 30km to cover so I patched them up and got walking but after nearly 3 hours of walking they were sore!! I was beginning to stress that maybe my journey was over!! Maybe that was it!! A fellow walker, Danielle, suggested she would pop them and initially I was like ... 'no', but by the next hour I took a break and she popped them. I got in the support vehicle and watched as the walkers carried on! I was worried, stressed that my walk day had ended at 1030am!! So I decided to just try and relax, change my thinking, breath deeply and help give my blisters time to get better. By 11am I could still feel the blisters but the pain was substantially reduced. So the hour before lunch, I decided to walk. It was painful but not as it had been and I managed to walk the rest of the walk.
So how does a blister relate to being an entrepreneur? Well, that small inconvenience created the stress that I wouldn't be able to finish the walk and something like that can happen to you. Maybe a client calls off the business or a supplier lets you down and all of this can lead to stress and worry which can limit your thinking and give you a sense of doom!! But...... if you are aware of it and ask for help, then someone can help you! There are people out there that you know you can call upon when you are in dire straits. I'd suggest having them on a list with the potential areas they can help you with, so when things are not looking good you have a white list of potential saviours and help you reduce your stress and help you carry on to your objective!!
Skill 5: We all want Happiness & Connection
There is always room for happiness and connection. Its this circle that drives everything else and keeps us going when we are down. The ladies on this walk are a marvellous bunch. We all connected because we all shared a common goal and values. We wanted to walk the distance and along the way declutter our minds, readjust our thinking and use the movement, views and [moments of] silence of the walk as a sort of meditation. As I shared my reasons along the walk with fellow walkers I did discover that my reasons to walk were not very different to anyone else's. We all seeked happiness and connection.
In our careers, we push forward and work towards building something we are passionate about but we also strive to be happier, contented, feel connected to people and what we do so we can have a sense of pride and accomplishment. However, Happiness is something that is not a given, its something we have to work on and too be happy we need to set ourselves some goals and objectives that work towards that feeling of happiness so when we are down we can have case studies of moments of happiness to look back on and can understand what happiness is! I think I have spent a large part of my life thinking I am happy but actually its only when you do something outside of your comfort zone, do you actually recognise happiness and understand what it feels like.
This also goes with Connection Humans are creatures that need connection and sociability. We thrive and grow when we feel we are connected to someone that has common values. Think of your friendships and remember that moment when you connected on a common idea or common value. That just takes the whole relationship to another level!
My final point!
I thoroughly enjoyed the walk, the desert and the ladies I met. I was completely out of my comfort zone and worked very hard in my mind to embrace every moment and pick out the lessons I was learning along the way. These five stood out for me. There were others, like staying focused on one goal at a time, trust and let yourself evolve and build determination and strength of character. All again very valid attributes to your entrepreneurial journey.
I would highly recommend anyone to just take a moment out of their life to reflect where they are, see what is working and what isn't. Give yourself that opportunity to de-clutter your mind and let go of some thoughts or feelings you hold on to tight too so you know you should get rid off. A 90km walk will teach you what's important and what isn't. It has for me and now my quest hasn't changed dramatically but I have adjusted and I'll work on not getting so stressed about things and work on reaching out for help! I've never been good at asking for help but I'm willing to try!. I'm now looking for another new first! :)
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