As I laid down on a rock using my legs as a brace to keep me from falling into the cold rushing water, I thought to myself, “I can’t believe I made it here.”
“Here” was the Hapao Hot Spring. It also features some cool rapids adjacent to the spring so you can go from a warm bath to frigid water (or vice versa) in just a few steps. My wife and I had hired a local guide to take us through the Hapao and Hungduan Rice Terraces with a stop at this waterway two-thirds of the way through our journey.
But I almost didn’t make it to the water. I felt as if I was going to fall off of the thin walkways as we traversed our way along the terraces.
You see, I’m not much of an outdoorsmen. Some might even call me clumsy. (I’d agree with them.) But I wanted to experience this area of the Philippines because it was touted as a man-made wonder of the world. So I stepped outside of my comfort zone, and I took on the persona of a hiker.
As I walked along the terrace boundaries – some wider than most – I felt unsure about my footing. I slowed my pace, struggling to keep up with my wife and the guide. Whether that was because I was inexperienced or because the paths were not designed for feet my size wasn’t the point. The point was that I was not confident with my steps, so I was careful with them.
Then I started to get more comfortable.
I took longer strides. I picked up the pace. I felt more confident with each step I took. Even as the path narrowed and the incline became steeper, my confidence grew.
That’s when I lost my footing.
No one in front of me saw me stumble. Both the guide and Anne were several steps ahead of me when I stepped a little too far to the right and almost wound up face first in a rice terrace about a foot below. (Had I listed left I wouldn’t have just landed in a rice terrace. I would have plummeted several feet into one.)
I caught myself and steadied my stance. I took a deep breath and slowly resumed walking. A few strides later, the path widened. I caught up with the rest of my party, none of whom had a clue what almost went down (namely, me).
As I kept walking, I began to think about the difference between being comfortable, confident, and cocky.
When I started the trip, I was comfortable at my own pace. I didn’t worry about what the others were doing. I went on my own way. But as the distance between us grew, I knew I needed to pick up the pace. Because I’d been doing so well to that point, I felt more confident. Initially, I was able to keep up. The distance disappeared, and I was right behind them. I felt really good about where I was at, and I figured could push it further.
That’s when I got cocky. And that’s when I almost wound up in the mud.
You don’t need to be walking along a rice terrace in the Philippines for this to happen.
For example, take a look at your to do list. Here’s a breakdown of what comfort, confidence, and cockiness can do to it.
A to do list that makes you comfortable will only take you so far. You’ll feel good with it to a point. But eventually, you’ll feel you can be doing more. A to do list that is filled with things you need to do and little of what you want to do is one that can lead you down this path.
You’re comfortable in knowing you can deal with those things that need doing, but when that happens over an extended period of time, you spend more time being reactive than proactive. There are times you need to comfortable with your to do list (when you’re taking on a new project or job, for example). But at some point, you’ll need to dig deeper and push further ahead.
When you get to a point when your to do list serves you well beyond the current day, you’re going to gain confidence with it. Confidence in your to do list is often accompanied with the knowledge that you have a solid system in place that will help you accomplish what’s on it. You’ve got a nice balance going between what is urgent and what is important, with a bias towards the latter. There’s little to no friction when you start and end your day when you are confident in your to do list.
Eventually, that confidence starts to spread beyond the day. Your weeks seem to be more in order. Your months map out in a way that they haven’t before. Everything is falling in line, and you feel as if nothing can halt your forward progress.
Cockiness can set in when you get too confident in your to do list. There are things that come up out of nowhere that can really throw you. This WILL happen. Anyone who says it doesn’t is not being completely honest about it. Life is unpredictable. Despite every effort you make to have a framework or process in place to deal with what life throw at you, there will always be curveballs that throw you off your game. These are important, though, because they are the things that will humble you (and your to do list).
Getting comfortable is the first step. Comfort is the building block for what’s to come – confidence.
Being confident is important because it’s how you take things to the next level. Confidence breeds confidence in no matter what you do. In fact, you’ll go back and forth between comfort and confidence as you advance.
(If you’re saying to yourself “Oh, yeah. This is going to be a breeze.” then I really want to you think about it harder. That kind of inner dialogue might just be cockiness trying to break through.)
You want to avoid cockiness as much as possible. It’s the thing that can derail you. It’s the thing that can hurt you. It can be the difference between pushing forward and plummeting downwards.
So take a look at the to do list you have right now. Are you feeling good about it? Is it balanced with what you need and want to do? Do you have more on it than you can handle? Give it an honest assessment and decide whether it pushes too far into the realm of cockiness than it should.