Several weeks ago, I helped a group of young adult campers push themselves beyond their comfort limit by completing a paddle that was a serious test of endurance. My job was to pilot the chase boat, shepherd our paddlers and offer up water and words of encouragement. On this particular paddle, we were fortunate to have calm seas and balmy weather, so my job really didn’t have much stress, nor much discomfort.

From there, I immediately went to an Island Skills Camp Milk-N-Cookies session for a younger group of campers, where I explained to their parents why, in our camps, we take our kids out of their comfort zone, and how we hope that by pushing kids, we were helping them become stronger individuals and have more rich and full memories. Only the whole time I was pushing young people to the outer limits of their abilities, I was pretty well within my own comfort zone.

It occurred to me that to be able to really extoll the value of being pushed out of our limits of comfort and capability, I needed to do it more often myself. Distant memories of doing this is not enough, I need to live what I preach. So, I decided to arise early the following morning and force myself to undertake my own epic paddle – a 10-mile loop around San Carlos Bay. The first three miles were into a strong headwind, the next three miles were against a strong tidal current, and in all honestly, I don’t really remember the conditions of the next four miles too well. I was tired, sore, and dehydrated; I just put my head down and paddled. It wasn’t fun, and certainly not comfortable, but I made it and was not unhappy with my pace.

When it was over, I was glad to be finished, proud to have accomplished it, and felt like I had again earned the right to lead young people into discomfort, to help them find in themselves strengths they didn’t know existed. We should all push ourselves more often.