A few years ago, when I was a senior in high school, some friends and I were sitting around the living room of my friend’s house on a hot July day trying to figure out what to do. We bounced ideas off each other, but everything was either too far, too expensive, or not exciting enough. Then one of my friends had an idea. In a heartbeat, we all agreed, packed our things, and hopped in the car.
45 minutes later we showed up to Clifty Falls, a site known best by the local teenagers for, you guessed it, cliff jumping.
We all stood around at the top of the falls for a minute looking at the drop and talking to some other kids who were there.
“How high do you think it is?” asked one of my friends.
“30 feet or so,” agreed another friend and I. It had to have been at least 2-3 stories. It may not sound like much, but would you ever jump out of the third floor of a building? Probably not.
Without thinking, one of my friends walked back, took his shirt off, got a running start, and jumped, all within a few seconds. We were shocked.
Next thing I know my other friends and I are all hyping each other up, preparing for the jump.
One friend goes.
Then there’s me.
“I can’t do it. I’ll just watch you guys, it’s fine,” I insisted. There was no way I was doing that. What if I land wrong and end up like the guy in A Walk to Remember? What if I don’t jump out far enough? What if I trip and fall off instead and end up breaking my neck or something? Nope. Not going to happen.
At this point other kids started noticing my apprehension to the jump. One person came up to me and started trying to calm my nerves.
“The thing about the jump,” he said, “is that you can’t think about it. If you think, you’ll end up panicking like you are now. Just clear your head.”
Okay, I thought, don’t think.
BUT I’M ABOUT TO JUMP OFF A CLIFF – HOW DO I NOT THINK ABOUT THAT????!!!????
I was, to say the least, terrified.
Should I mention that up until this point, I’ve always been afraid of heights? Yeah, this wasn’t my brightest idea. But I love a good thrill, so somehow it balanced out.
I had made up my mind – I wasn’t going to jump.
“Maybe next time,” I said. But for today, I was okay with just hanging back and spending time with my friends that didn’t involve falling to my death.
I started to walk away from the ledge, ready to sit down and accept the fact that I wasn’t going to do it. Then, all of a sudden, I turned around and started running. And when the time came, I jumped.
I don’t remember what I thought during the fall. If anything, I felt peace. I wasn’t afraid, I wasn’t worried, I was just falling. In seconds I hit the water but I kept falling until I wasn’t. I made my way to the top, took a huge breath, and I just screamed. I threw my hands up and screamed an exhilarating, toe curling scream that can only be sparked by the rush of adrenaline and absolute bliss. I looked up and my friends were up top cheering for me, and even some of the kids who were encouraging me to jump were looking down at me. I have never felt a feeling like that before, and I have never felt that way since.
Were my parents beyond angry at me for going cliff jumping? They sure were. Would I do it again? Definitely not. Do I regret it? Not in the slightest.
I learned an important lesson that day; I learned about the power of not thinking.
The thing about decisions is that they’re rarely hard to make, but they’re almost always hard to do. More often than not we know exactly what needs to be done. Maybe it’s something we know is right, but it’s hard. Maybe it’s a decision that seems the least likely to work, but it’s the only one that feels right. Maybe it’s something that seems incredibly stupid and the odds are probably stacked against you (like jumping off a cliff), but it will lead to the greatest outcomes.
Nobody likes making decisions, whether they’re minor like choosing where to eat or major and can lead to large life changes. But I think the reason a lot of decisions can be so hard and take so much time to make is because we spend an incredible amount of time thinking about them, when it’s possible that the thing we need to do most is just not think.
Take a few steps back.
You’ll find peace in the fall and bliss in the landing.