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Alyssa Petersel

What Skiing Can Teach You About Life

My Wellbeing founder and CEO, Alyssa Petersel, shares with us important insights that she gained while skiing that are relevant to life off the mountain, even in the concrete jungle that is New York City.
What Skiing Can Teach You About Life

In this week’s post, My Wellbeing founder and CEO, Alyssa, shares with us important insights that she gained while skiing that are relevant to life off the mountain, even in the concrete jungle that is New York City.

You may remember one of our blog posts from last Spring, in which I described the panic attack I had the last time I went skiing. About a month ago, I went skiing again. I know, an unusual decision for someone with a mild fear of heights and a clear traumatic memory.

Cue the exhale...no panic attack this time. Instead, by focusing on the following (credit to my ski guides Jonathan, Jim, Ian, and Jeremy), I was able to stay present, relatively sane, and -- drumroll, please -- I even had a bit of fun.

Today, I share my ski insights with you, and how I envision them weaving into concrete living in NYC:

  1. One turn at a time.
  2. To successfully ski, you must remain dutifully present in the turn you are actively making. If you give yourself too hard of a time about your last turn, you'll miss the current turn, and likely fall. If you spend too much time anticipating or fearing the next turn, you'll miss your current turn, and likely fall.

    Similarly, outside of skiing, it's a healthy reminder to be mindful of the chapter you're currently in. If your tendency is to get lost in past regret, you may miss the potential of your current opportunities. If your tendency is to anticipate, plan, or fear the future, you may miss the joys of your present moment. Like me, you may need a reminder, or a guide, to keep you focused on "now."
  3. Aggression is not always a bad thing.
  4. To really enjoy skiing, you need to move into the turn. You need to balance your body weight above the ski that is moving down the mountain (originally truly terrifying for me). If you don't move into the turn, you're unlikely to move very well, and you may fall, stutter, or engrain poor habits.

    Similarly, many of life's biggest joys require taking a risk. For example, if you'd like to start a company, earn a promotion at work, take the next step in your romantic relationship, start a family, ask the human across the cafe out on a date, or really anything else that has an uncertain outcome, you'll need to take a risk. It will likely be scary. You'll have to trust that you may be more skilled, more grounded, more supported than your fears want you to believe. Things just might work out.

  5. Don't be stagnant.
  6. While skiing, if you stop moving, you fall. However, within movement, you have a choice in where and how you want to move down the mountain.

    Like skiing, in life, every second of every day, we are changing. You cannot stop change. However, you do have some choice in how you'd like to grow, move, heal, change. It's said that you become more like the people you choose to surround yourself with. You also have choice in your support team, your care providers, and the decisions you make day-to-day. Choose wisely, and keep moving forward.

  7. Adjust to the terrain.
  8. While skiing, no two feet of snow are the same. As the day progresses, the temperature shifts, the steepness of the slope shifts, the depth of the snows shifts, and more. It is unwise to ski a green (relatively flat, relatively smooth) slope the same way you would ski a black (relatively steep, relatively full of obstacles) slope.

    Similarly, you would not behave in a coffee shop the same way you would in a nightclub. It's unlikely you would interact with your grandmother the same way you would with your partner. Sometimes, we feel shame about this--yearning after a more "authentic self." This ski analogy may lend perspective that actually, many selves exist within us, and it's normal -- if not encouraged -- to allow those various selves to thrive in their fitting context and company.

  9. Art in the snow.
  10. One of my instructors had a habit of pausing mid-slope and taking a look up the mountain at the "art" that we'd created. Our various right and left turns turned into an interesting design. "Ah, self-expression," he would say. None of us would create the same loop twice, and we certainly would not create the same loops as each other.

    So finally, an analogy: your path is likely to be extremely different day to day. It will vary from your own journey of yesterday and tomorrow, and it will certainly vary from the journey of those around you. Be patient with yourself. Take a minute, when you remember, to look up at all you've done. Your journey is art, in all its highs and lows.
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About the author

Alyssa Petersel, Co-Founder and CEO of My Wellbeing and author of Somehow I Am Different, graduated from Northwestern University in 2013 with dual BA degrees in psychology and international studies, graduated summa cum laude from New York University in May 2017 with her Master's in Social Work, and graduated from The Writer's Institute non-fiction program at CUNY Graduate Center in May 2017. A native New Yorker, Alyssa now lives in Brooklyn and enjoys running, coffee, community, and social justice.

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