We pause this adventure for a pulse check!
Have you been there before? Have you been on an adventure with friends or alone and had to just stop everything to do a pulse check? No, I am not referring to the one to see if you are still breathing because you are gasping for every ounce of oxygen you can suck in and think that you might have died on that last ascent. No, I am referring to the ones where whether physical or mental, something seems off. It may be nothing, but a pulse check helps bring everyone back and centered.
Whether it is a team of one or fifty, it is the same. Yes, one person can be a team, cohesiveness in one’s thoughts and actions is important. Your heart might be racing with some type of fear, your mind might be focused on getting to point B and your body might be screaming out wondering why you left point A. A pulse check gives you time to stop and put a focus back into all of it. Realign where you are, where you are going and how you want to get there. Get all of yourself back on board with the plan.
As a couple, we hike together and find water breaks, lunch break and photo ops as a good time for pulse checks. Selfie Time! We make sure each other are doing okay physically and mentally. Sometimes, that is all it takes to turn around some mental negativity that might be creeping its way into our fun.
In a team atmosphere, it is critical to do a pulse check. One small thing could turn one person negative and it creates an effect on everyone. Like a rolling snowball, it can get too big to handle quickly if you don’t stop and do a pulse check. Creating a routine out of pulse checks just makes everyone more aware of their individual actions and emotions, which in turn may benefit the whole team. Water breaks, map checking breaks or such can be used as a pulse check time while not being so obvious.
Ask questions like:
- How is everyone doing?
- How tough would each of you rank this so far?
- Does anyone have anything impacting them negatively that we change?
These types of questions will spur conversation that will give insight into not only the real problems, but also solutions. It is also important to find some type of solution. Telling others to Suck it up Buttercup is not always a good solution, so be sure to try solutions that truly benefit the group.
As team members on incident management teams, we find it critical to do pulse checks. Whether it is someone you know well or a complete stranger, you are in a mission together and stopping for a pulse check is vital. Knowing where they are, how they are doing, if they are coping with being away from home, if they feel productive and if they are having a positive experience are all important matters to know the answers to. Having the team in a positive state of mind and enjoying their work is the difference between success and potential turmoil or failure. This same concept applies to a larger group backpacking together.
Communicate with each other and be honest.
Photos above are from a few of our fire incident deployments.
A great book to read about teamwork, pulse checks and outdoor adventure all tied into one is “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer. For some, it might be the most exciting read, but the overall take away from it is worth the times when it seems to drag.
Do you do pulse checks? What type of questions do you ask?