In the end, the only way to jump off the cliff is to jump off the cliff. Fix your resolve and do it now, or walk away. Other people can cheer you on or put you off; they might help bolster your courage or feed your fear – but finally it’s down to you. Turn back to your comfort zone, or leave it in one bold leap.
On Sunday afternoon I found myself standing on the brink of a limestone cliff on a rocky island, looking with trepidation into the black water of Loch Ard below. I’m no great swimmer, and I’m not great with heights either, so this ‘cliff-jumping experience’ – a surprise birthday present from the lovely Ryan – was firmly at the challenging end of my ‘fun’ spectrum. (Come to think of it, I’m sure the only ‘experience’ on my birthday wish list was a spa day … what happened, Ryan!?)
I was scared. But that wasn’t a good enough reason not to do it – so, without giving myself too much time to think, I took a deep breath and jumped. Cue a flurry of sensations: shock, fear, surprise – such a long time falling! – then SPLASH into crisp cool water and sinking, sinking through the darkness. Dismay – such a long time sinking! – then at last I was rising, slowly rising until the fizzing silence was broken by voices and I was spluttering above the water. On the other side of fear, still breathing!
I climbed higher the next time. Then higher still, onto the rocks at the very top of the island, counting myself down to that long drop through thin air. Three, two, one, jump! Scary, yes; but exhilarating; exciting, refreshing. Because doing what scares you makes you stronger every time.
I came across a great article recently, via Sisu Girls. Entitled ‘A Dad’s-Eye View of Scary vs Dangerous‘, the essence of it was this: ‘scary’ is where the good stuff happens. Embracing big changes; making brave decisions; choosing tough challenges – these are all scary things. They take guts – but they’re not dangerous. What’s dangerous, the writer suggests, is backing away from the brink and never discovering what you could have done if you’d dared.
The scariest cliffs I know are not the limestone kind. They are the invisible ones, formed by months and years of perceived limitations; ingrained behaviours; fear of being vulnerable to failure or ridicule. Whenever you think of quitting a job; starting a new venture; plotting a new course or setting a new goal, you stand on the brink of a cliff. To jump is to dare to reach for the things you want the most – and doing that will always be scary. There is always a host of excellent reasons to back away from the brink – and if you wait for the perfect time you’ll wait forever.
My cliff-jumping birthday present – scary as it was – was absolutely the right thing at the right time. Because the really great thing about jumping off a cliff is that it’s the best possible practice for jumping off another cliff. A bigger cliff, a scarier cliff. A different kind of cliff.
The only way to do it is to do it. If you don’t jump, you’ll never know where you might have landed.
Our cliff jumping experience was with Go Country, Kinlochard