By Betty

When my friend Mercy came home after attending the 2022 ANLP, she could not stop talking about the experience. She used words like fun, intense and life-changing. She is one of those people that dares to test the waters. When opportunities arise, she pursues them despite having no point of reference from someone who walked that path before. She inspired me to join the programme. See, I am free-spirited at heart, but in reality, I stay within my comfort zone. This time round, I trusted her judgment. I read everything there was to read about ANLP on the online platform and marked my calendar for when applications for 2023 would be open. This seemed like an opportunity to take the shackles off my feet and dance; with my two left feet.
The journey here was eventful. We boarded the plane in time and settled, ready for take-off. Then came the news that a co-pilot of the plane I was travelling with to South Africa had to be replaced. The attendant making that announcement deliberately mumbled something about ‘pressure’ into the microphones. We waited for an hour before the replacement arrived. This was my first experience travelling away from home by myself. I could have panicked, but I felt safe since home was only 50 kilometres from the airport. I was well within my physical comfort zone.
I eventually got here and mingled with fellow participants. We were all strangers to each other. Socializing has never been a problem for me, so this came easy. I was, however, jolted from my comfort zone when the actual programme commenced. I quickly realized that I had to verbalize my input during the sessions. Why has no one told me until now that I have to project my voice when speaking? So, I have to ask for feedback and not wait for it to be offered? Did someone say that our ability to learn declines significantly after age 35? Reflection moments have to be deliberate and scheduled? Success should not only be acknowledged, it should be celebrated! Oh, my life will be one big celebration now. I will henceforth celebrate every win, big and small.
It is five days into the programme. During the moments of reflection sitting by the river Vaal, I have had the opportunity to understand the nature of the shackles that have been around my feet. I learnt that I have to strengthen my internal locus of control. That I always have a choice and should pay attention to my self-talk.
I got to test this during the high ropes challenge. I cheered everyone up but when it was my turn, my self-talk told me that I had a choice. The easier choice was to stay in my comfort zone. I did not have to do it. I could picture myself dangling several meters in the air. But then, did I come all the way to watch everyone else conquer their fears? Suffice it to say, the mantra be afraid but do it anyway prevailed.
At the end of this programme, I will be free of the shackles around my feet. My two left feet and I will do a victory dance to the banks of River Vaal and deposit them there. My shackled self will fade into oblivion. I will be a ‘Mercy’ to someone else.