Over New Year, my husband & I flew off to Northern Lapland to spend a few days with friends and family. At this time of year, it’s a magical place covered in deep white snow, and temperatures plunging below -25 celsius. It’s also Kaamos, where the sun never appears above the horizon for many weeks. It creates strange lights and patterns in the sky, and during dawn and dusk, everything turns blue. The village where we stayed is 250km north of the artic circle, so also a great place for spotting the Northern Lights, or aurora borealis.
I’d made a decision that during this trip that I wanted to achieve something – to feel a sense of personal victory. It wasn’t about “being a winner” or “beating the competition” but was more about being able to own something and see it through to conclusion. Being in a ski resort, it felt like skiing could be a good option. But the first time I had skied a number of years ago, I had broken my leg within 30 minutes of hitting the slopes, so I felt pretty nervous about getting back on skis. But my 70 year old mother-in-law does cross-country skiing every day in winter, and so I decided that might be a better challenge.
So, lesson booked, skis hired, I arrived at the ski school to meet my ski instructor. I was physically shaking from nerves, and the bitter chill at -27 celsius that day. Viktor was kind and patient, and over the next few hours helped me to gain some confidence, ski along a flat stretch and (most importantly for me) fall safely if I felt out of control. Every day for the the next week, I headed out with friends or family to practice more. I lost count how many times I fell. Cross country skiing is not as fast as downhill, so if you look up, you also get to enjoy spectacular views across the Urho Kekkonen national park.
At the end of each day, I was aching, finding pains in muscles I didn’t know I had! It was hard going, and I felt like giving up. But each day, I skied a little further, fell a little less and grew more confident. But one thing still filled me with dread – heading downhill. The loss of control, fear of breaking my leg again or even falling off the hill into the ravine all scared me. Each time I tried a slope, I’d panic and tumble over. I kept trying but couldn’t quite get it. Then, on the way home one evening with a friend, I decided to give in one last try. Whoosh – sweeping down the hill in one, flowing around the bend and coming to a stop. It felt brilliant! Amazing! At last, I had nailed it. After 3 days, I was able to say I was enjoying the skiing.
On the last day of the holiday, we skied all the way to the next town, Laanilan to have lunch – a whole 6km! It felt like I had just climbed a mountain! At least I had earned the title to call myself a cross country skier. Uphill, downhill, through the forest – I had conquered my nerves to enjoy the thrill of cross-country skiing.
It probably doesn’t sound like a big deal to many folks – lots of people can ski, right? But for me, it was a brick wall that I never thought I’d scale. It reinforced my belief in myself, and gave me the confidence to face other challenges. Life is full of small victories – in themselves they are small, but collectively it will make a significant difference to you and your goals. Positive emotions as we start the year are a great motivator, so maybe you should seek out your next small victory?