Letting Go & Moving On in the time of Pandemic

22 April 2020


What unusual times we are living through. Just when I thought I had wired professional norms for doing business and managing positive relationships, everything changed! We are all having to grieve the loss of a known harbor and to contend with the unsettled feeling of being unmoored. As my colleagues have been discussing, however, we do not have to be sea-sick for long. We just have to seek guidance from our Full Value Commitment together. Like a solid Emergency Action Plan, our Full Value Commitment is constructed and refined during times of relative comfort so that it can provide guidance with our decision-making when we are adrift. 


Of the six Project Adventure Full Values, I have been thinking most recently about the tenant, “Let go and move on.”  In particular, how this value relates to Challenge by ChoiceOver the years I have had a few incidents that have really put me out of my comfort zone. I’m not talking about any of the big wall or high altitude mountain climbing experiences I’ve been privileged to complete even when there has been plenty of hurt and mayhem around. 


No, I’m talking about karaoke, or...acting on a stage.  


It has always been odd to me that I am very comfortable talking in front of large groups, but give me a script and ask me to act, sing, or dance, and the sweat starts to drip! Over the years I have chosen (yes, Challenge by Choice) to actively avoid such situations, even when goaded to “step out of your Comfort Zone, Austin.”  At this point, my reticence has been almost pathological.


Ironically, I have been married for more than 30 years to a person who excels in these environments. My partner has been performing and teaching performing arts to hundreds of students throughout our life together. It has always amazed me that her students have blossomed in ways that are so surprising and profound.

Over the years we have talked about the similarity between performance art and adventure outcomes. Both allow the performer to experience intense emotions and discover a new sense of self. Both take intense focus, courage, and surrender of the known. Both are active and encourage reflection. And both most often require strong partnerships. 


Recently, we have both struggled to find ways to bring our active learning professions into the online world. I guess I should not have been surprised the other day when she said she needed a partner for one of her early filming attempts for a lesson plan for her students. Being confined to the house, I was in no position to refuse. I did, however, hem and haw, and ask for an overabundance of information about the scene to be filmed, despite the fact that I was a bit player.  


I fidgeted endlessly with camera position and fretted about what I would say. Towards the end of my perseverating my partner reminded me that this was improvisation, there was no script, and this was supposed to be fun. Just “LET GO!”   


I can’t count the number of times I have heard myself say those words to students on the ropes course. I have always known what a struggle it can be to do things that are scary, to literally or figuratively let go and trust your partner, your systems, yourself. This has been the essence of my work, though now I better understand, it has not always been so easy in my life. 


So…I let go. At least for this time.  


How do YOU let go and move on during this pandemic? What’s hard for you? Share with us!  Click here to see my theater debut.



Austin Paulson

PA Director of Technical Training

Project Adventure