This week we connect with Steve Evers, the founder of Healthy Outside, to talk about the connection between nature, coaching, and healthy living. Combining coaching while embracing nature and the outdoors provides unique opportunities for self-reflection, going outside of our comfort zone, promote personal goals, and achieve our goals. Episode Notes can be found at uncoverthehuman.wearesiamo.com
Credits: Raechel Sherwood for Original Score Composition.
YouTube Channel: Uncover The Human
[00:00:00] AC: Welcome to Uncover the Human, where every conversation revolves around enhancing all the connections in our lives.
[00:00:05] CA: Whether that's with our families, co-workers, or even ourselves.
[00:00:09] AC: When we can be our authentic selves, magic happens.
[00:00:11] CA: This is Cristina Amigoni.
[00:00:13] AC: And this is Alex Cullimore.
[00:00:15] CA: Let's dive in.
[00:00:15] AC: Let’s dive in.
Authenticity means freedom.
Authenticity means going with your gut.
Authenticity is bringing 100% of yourself. Not just the parts you think people want to see but all of you.
Being authentic means that you have integrity to yourself.
It's the way our intuition is whispering something deep rooted and true.
Authenticity is when you truly know yourself. You remember and connect to who you were before others told you who you should be.
It's transparency, relatability, no frills, no makeup, just being.
[00:00:54] AC: Hello and welcome back to another episode of Uncover the Human. Today, we are joined by our guest, Steve Evers. Steve Evers created the company Healthy Outside. It is a nature-based coaching with lots of retreats. He's based out of Moab, Utah, which is the perfect place to have a nature-based coaching retreat. He's a professionally certified coach, friend of Cristina's. We've talked to him a couple times and honestly just some really interesting life story, really interesting theory on coaching, and what it is to connect with nature. So welcome, Steve.
[00:01:21] CA: Welcome, Steve.
[00:01:22] SE: Thank you. A pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me.
[00:01:25] AC: It's a really interesting niche you've got carved out here. You've got very much a nature-based foundation to overall professional coaching and group setting coaching. There's lots of interesting pieces to it. Talk to us a little bit about how you got into nature-based coaching, what your journey is here, what you like doing.
[00:01:44] SE: Sure, yeah. Gosh, I probably – It’s been a about a 20-year journey, so I’ll try to condense it as much as I can. Essentially, I started guiding. It was white water rafting. At an early age, I was in my teens. Through my process with that, I eventually transitioned out of the guiding world and into this instructing world where I was teaching people to do these things, as well as infusing character development into that as well with an outdoor program.
I made the shift from guiding to instructing because with guiding, you can take people down the river if you're a raft guide, and you have fun with them. It's a good time. You connect with somebody for maybe four hours, maybe a couple days if it's a multi-day trip. But then it's, “Well, so long. See you later,” and I was wanting something a little bit more in-depth, something. Or it felt like I was making more of a difference. That's where I’ve made the jump into instructing. With that, you would instruct a variety of activities, not just rafting. There'd be backpacking, rock climbing, canyoneering. You name it.
Over the years with that, it was just such an incredible experience to see the transformation that I would witness with people in the outdoors where you put someone in an uncomfortable situation, and they're kind of inherently pushed a bit more to the edge of their comfort zone. They have these adversities, these trials, and obstacles set ahead of them, whether it's interpersonal, intra-personal, or just the physical challenge of the situation. It was just always so incredible to see people rise to the occasion and overcome that and learn about themselves in the process.
Then the cherry on top would always be when I got to hear back from these participants later on in life and how they transferred those lessons out in the wilderness to our everyday life since most of us don't really live in the wilderness 24/7. I don't even do that anymore. I got kind of tired of that. It’s definitely a lifestyle for some, and I’ve moved on from that a little bit.
[00:04:12] CA: Running water, heat, a few things.
[00:04:15] SE: Yeah. Nice to have every once in a while. Nice soft bed. You wake up and you don't have to make your coffee on the ground.
[00:04:24] CA: It’s kind of nice.
[00:04:24] AC: I mean, you still do obviously, right?
[00:04:28] SE: Sometimes to reminisce, right? It’s nostalgic. My wife comes in. She’s like, “What are you doing?”
[00:04:34] CA: Make some dirt with the coffee. It all looks the same. It's fine.
[00:04:39] SE: Right. You don't even notice.
[00:04:41] AC: It's good for the immune system.
[00:04:45] SE: So then like it was – Well, I don't know if I mentioned this. It might be in the bio, but I spent about 15 years doing that. More recently, I jumped into full-time coaching, so life coaching, mental health coaching. With that process, I feel like it blended really well with this former type of instruction I was doing in the outdoors, and I was in management for a fairly large outdoor education program. It was that time of year where it's just nose to the grindstone, training coming up. So I’ve got this new batch of new hires that I’d hired people, I developed the training, and then implemented the training. It’s one of those weeks. I’m sure you all have experienced this probably. Many of the listeners have. But Friday comes up and you're – Maybe it's Thursday or so, and you're just like, “I need a break. I was just totally fried.”
I think I recognized this. I think it was on a Thursday afternoon, and so I decided I need to get up into the mountains. I need to go and be on my bike for a few days. Literally, just in a couple hours, I planned a three-day mountain bike packing. I think backpacking but all your gear on your bike. Kind of like bicycle touring but with kind of changing equipment. Now, you can do it pretty easily like on a mountain bike on trail, like up in the mountains or wherever you want to ride. Just in a couple hours, planned the trip, the location. I was going to go over to Colorado, just a hop jump and a skip away from me here in Utah, go up to the continental divide, and did the food shop.
Really honestly, it took me like two hours to do all that. I got out of work on Friday four o'clock, drove over a couple hours, parked the truck, got on my bike, started riding up, and I was in camp camping by that evening. Then the next couple days, it's just me and my bike, waking up early, riding to beat the summer thunderstorm, so I don't get struck by lightning up high above tree line. Then getting to camp early and I was just reading this book. It's actually a book on management. I’m such a nerd. I’m out in the wilderness like enjoying riding my bike on some pretty crazy trails and then, “Oh, let's read a book on management and camp this afternoon.”
For me, I love that and I’ve gotten to experience that. For me, I mean, it was just so easy because I had at that point almost 20 years of experience of planning trips like these and being able to do it. I have the equipment and I got to thinking, “Man, I just know so many people would love this and be so into this where you have an incredible beautiful inspiring location, doing something that's active and fun, engaging your body physically healthy, while you're also learning new things about how to better yourself professionally and personally.”
That was kind of where this idea of Healthy Outside was born. It was me realizing, “Well, I want to be able to provide this for other people because not everybody has access to, one, the terrain and the landscape that we have but the equipment.” I mean, it's taken – I’ve acknowledged 15 to 20 years to build up this experience, and so it's not really attainable or likely that folks that want to kind of have that experience can do that on their own. Certainly, they can but there's external limiting factors to that. That’s really where this whole idea about Healthy Outside has come from, and it's evolved over time, and I’m really, really happy with where things are at with it right now and ready to kind of enter this next chapter of the company.
[00:08:32] CA: Yeah. That's wonderful. It reminds me a lot of what you talked about in the beginning how you get this really special connection with yourself, your limits, and others while being out there doing outdoorsy stuff, especially uncomfortable outdoorsy stuff. It really reminded me of a couple of experiences I had the fortune to have early on when I was in Switzerland over the summer, working there. I was leading leadership camps. I actually had to get out of the office every once in a while and go with the students to do some things.
At the moment, it was one of those like, “Oh, how do I get out of an all-day rafting or an all-day canyoning trip where I really don't want to be out there for 12 hours, figuring out where to pee and which bush to hide behind?” In hindsight, I am so grateful because those are the memories, the best memories I have of watching people connecting with themselves and each other. Really, like the bond that you establish with your own courage and as well as with the people that you do this with afterwards is really not comparable to any workshop in a meeting room for five hours or anything like that. It's completely different.
[00:09:57] SE: Yeah, absolutely. It’s interesting how an authentic experience like going outside, somewhere where there is real risk. It’s not facilitated. It is real and how that can allow a group to come together and form a bond. Certainly, it doesn't always go well. It could be extremely toxic if it's not facilitated in a way that allows this element, creates a bit of a safe space. If it's competitive, like who can do this hike the fastest or what have you. Well, that's not probably going to end very well or be very positive of an experience for folks.
But if you create that safe space where people are – They know they're going to go into an area where it's going to be uncomfortable, there's going to be some physical risk involved and you say, “Hey. Well, let's set some intentions here. What do we want this to look like?” Then people just kind of do the rest there. You've set some handrails for them. Hey, color within these lines basically of being a supportive group, and kind of the magic just ensues almost naturally.
[00:11:11] AC: I really like what you pointed out earlier about it automatically pushing you right out of your comfort zone. I mean, these are naturally risky places to be, and that seems like a great connection just to jump off with, that to you that people get to jump off with. They get to start a little bit outside of their comfort zone. You already have to be a little bit different. It's kind of like it's one of those situations where necessity of working as a group is suddenly front of mind, and that becomes more of a default mode of thinking, instead of trying to get yourself to think about like, “Well, how do we interact as a group?” Now, you've got just general discomfort. Now, you've got to choose how you're going to show up, which is kind of an interesting aspect of being out in nature.
[00:11:49] SE: Yeah. Alex, I love what you say about choice because you think of kind of the opposite of going on a trip out in nature somewhere. The opposite of that would probably just be your regular everyday life, which to a high degree is pretty automatic and just on autopilot, which is fine. It's understandable. That's easier for our brain to get into a routine and do things in the least energy expending way. When you are forced into or maybe not even forced but when you step by choice into a new situation, you're alert. You're turned on in these different ways. That by its very nature means you're stepping into choice.
You talk a lot about authenticity on this show. I mean, that right there, that's the core of it, but it's a choice. Who do I want to be? How do I want to respond to this? As opposed to, “Yup, it's a Tuesday. This is how Tuesdays go. Go for it.”
[00:12:56] AC: How long do you guys tend to do multi-day retreat kind of things? How long is the average or general trip?
[00:13:04] SE: Well, with Healthy Outside, we have one core product, and that's the healthy mind and body hike, and that's just a half-day trip. So that is going to be more individual and small group-based. I’ve done a lot of these multi-day retreats and expeditions in the past. Actually, in fact, I tried to start the company with that in mind. But then 2020 happened. I don't know if you know about that. Maybe not having the best setting to have a group of strangers or just a group come together in a kind of a shared living space. Anyways, the product we offer now with Healthy Outside, the healthy mind and body hype, really what this is – Well, now I’m just repeating myself. Yeah — healthy day hype —
[00:13:51] CA: You could repeat yourself.
[00:13:53] SE: Okay. I’ll repeat myself then. How about I just talk about what this trip is?
[00:13:57] CA: Yes.
[00:14:00] SE: Our core staple trip is the healthy mind and body hike. It's a half-day hike based out of Moab here. I’ll start by saying we all know that time in nature is positive for our health. There's no denying that. Whether you want to get into the studies or just accept that as a fact, like we've all experienced that. We usually all feel a lot better after some time in nature. We can just say that that's a fact. What we add to this time in nature is professional guidance. We have guides that will select the route and the appropriate terrain. They know about the local history, the local flora and fauna.
In addition to that kind of typical guidance that you'd get from a guide like on any sort of outdoor trip, we'll also throw in some facilitated workshop topics and reflections. It’s all on topics proven to help improve mental well-being. Going back to the name of this trip, the healthy mind and body hike, by its very nature, it's healthy for your body because you're getting physical exercise outside. Then we infuse these topics, like I said, on kind of this healthy mind component and, I mean, really add the following together. Getting exercise in a beautiful location, taking moments to reflect and introspect, learning new techniques to improve mental well-being, all while sharing good company outside. I mean, it's rejuvenating.
Folks going on vacation, if they're looking for one thing, it's probably to recharge. So really I can't think of a better way to do that than with this healthy mind and body hike. To answer your question, Alex, not into the multi-day stuff currently. I’ll look to expand to that in the future. But right now, it's just half a day, get outside and reset and rejuvenate a bit.
[00:15:55] AC: That's awesome. That is a potent combination of things to get both the nature of the company, the mindfulness that every piece of that falls into it. How did you end up coming up with the program? Just like through your own personal experiences you liked this. Did you start to just like research specific topics that you liked or wanted to share? How did that come together?
[00:16:14] SE: That's a great question.
[00:16:18] AC: Not to make you give away your secret sauce here.
[00:16:20] SE: Sure, sure. Well, really what I think helped it all come together has been my more recent work as a mental health coach, and then this element of health came in. Because for me and what I’ve been doing with my own life coaching practice, a lot of it is about living a fulfilled life. Everyone can achieve that on their own. It just kind of takes longer when you work with a coach. You kind of fast track your way into really achieving what it is you want or even deciding what is it that I really want, and working with a coach really helps that.
I equate a fulfilled life with a healthy life. I don't give a damn what your blood pressure is. That could be whatever. But at the end, if you can write on your headstone that I lived a happy and fulfilled life, like to me that's a healthy life. So infusing this element of a healthy mind into the outdoors, like I just think there's so self-reinforcing there, and I would say that's been more driven from my own experience. As a kid, I realized probably as a young teenager how much I loved and appreciated nature and the outdoors. I was fortunate to have experiences. We weren't doing large extravagant vacations as family growing up. We’re going to go and camp for the weekend. We kids, kids my brothers and sisters and I definitely battled that while we were young like, “Oh, we're going camping in Iowa while my friends are going to Disney World. Cool.”
But I look back on it so fondly now and I realized that going outside and being in nature, that's where I would go to just kind of maintain my satisfaction with life. Not that I was ever really traumatically wounded or anything. It just helped me keep my head level, and part of it was fun for me as a young man and even now. I still go out and I push myself physically in the outdoors with these big objectives that are challenging physically and mentally as well. But also, like just this morning, I woke up and thought, “Well, I haven't been outside for a walk in a couple days.” I just went out the back door and went out for 40 minutes. I mean, I feel so refreshed and in a good spot here talking with y'all. Your question is about experience or they're kind of like the science behind it. Sure, there is the science behind it, and I do really get captivated by some of these studies that show the evidence for the benefits of nature like forest bathing you'll hear. It’s a technique in Japan. That has emerged from Japan.
That stuff is really neat. It's intriguing to me. But honestly, I don't care so much about the science behind it because it just seems – I mean, it's so self-evident. But we live in a world that we want the scientific evidence, so I’m glad other people are doing that research and work. I’ll let them do that. I’m just going to go outside and enjoy myself.
[00:19:31] AC: It reminds me of something Simon Sinek says. I mean, he talks about like finding your why. When he helps people find their why, he says every single person tends to say the same thing once they realize what their why is, and it is, “Well, isn't that everybody's?” Is it so self-evident when you've found that thing that works for you that that really is there that you're like, “Well, yeah. Of course, that's just natural, but like what does that mean?” It’s cool to see people like you who get to like find that, engage in that, and do some work with that day to day. Truly, it’s a fascinating experience, and it’s cool that you’re looking to share this and really connect to other people with it.
[00:20:07] SE: Yeah. At the end of the day too, part of our website, I’m really looking to create and share content that does share techniques and tips for folks to improve their health primarily through this venue of nature and the outdoors. I’m just putting that up there. At the end of the day, if I just get more people outside and really excited and inspired to go outside and to recognize nature as this inherently good thing that we need, I’m happy.
[00:20:40] CA: It’s a good why.
[00:20:41] AC: Yeah. You settled on a lot of this half-day stuff. You’ve gotten – You were talking about even this morning you go out. You would take a 40-minute walk. You feel refreshed. I’m assuming that you’ve done enough practice getting into nature that it’s a very direct path. You can start to really feel that calming. You feel the connection very quickly. Are there ways you help facilitate people getting to some of those connections? Maybe they’ve spent some time in nature, but everybody’s going to be coming from a different life story. Have you found good ways to facilitate that connection when you bring people in?
[00:21:14] SE: Really great question. Yeah. I would say one of the first things is helping people feel comfortable out there. That doesn’t mean pampering them and making them feel physically comfortable but just allowing them to notice their experience. If it is physically difficult, whether the hike has gotten long or more on the multi-day stuff, it’s like, “Well, how do you sleep more comfortably?” I mean, that actually is physical comfort there. It’s just allowing – Just kind of settling their nerves because so many folks really have spent an alarmingly low amount of time in nature, and it is so surprising. You’ll see some folks that are just so on edge thinking, “Oh, my gosh. Are there rattlesnakes out here,” and they’re freaked out the whole time, scanning the ground everywhere for snakes.
[00:22:10] CA: That’s me.
[00:22:12] SE: Yeah. It’s a normal thing, right? Snakes are inherent to human nature like, “We don’t like that. That thing is equated with danger.”
[00:22:22] CA: Pain, yeah.
[00:22:23] SE: With danger and evil.
[00:22:25] CA: Yes.
[00:22:28] SE: I’ll tell them things like, “I’ve slept outside in this region in the southwest hundreds of nights and spent thousands upon thousands of hours out here traveling, and I’ve seen four rattlesnakes in that time like within a 100-mile radius of the town of Moab.” I think that is quite reassuring, so that can help just settle some nerves there as people are kind of getting into this new environment.
[00:23:02] AC: Like the flight attendant of the outdoors.
[00:23:05] SE: The flight attendant of the outdoors. I love it.
[00:23:07] AC: Don’t get nervous until you get nervous.
[00:23:11] SE: That is great. Flight attendant of the outdoors. I’m going to –
[00:23:14] CA: You see them running up and down the aisle. You know something is wrong.
[00:23:18] AC: Yeah. When you buckle in, everybody buckles in.
[00:23:21] SE: That’s so true. I mean, when I’ve been guiding more objectively hazardous things, like my whole thing is you just have to exude calm. But there have been times where it's like poo hitting the oscillator as they say. I don't know. Maybe. You choose. You can keep that if you want. People have been like, “Oh, whoa. Steve, I saw your eyes like light up like real big and wide,” so I knew this was real. So, yeah, that's a great way of putting them. I’ll put that on my business cards now, flight attendant of the outdoors.
[00:23:57] CA: It’s a great tagline.
[00:24:02] SE: I think also what really helps and I think listeners hearing this can also implement this. You don't need to come onto a trip and pay to have this experience. Go out and be mindful. Plug into your senses and not just what you see because our eyes – I think that's pretty common. That's probably an overly relied upon sense of this day and age, and it makes sense. But like what do you hear out there like truly listening? What do you smell? I mean, I love – One of my favorite things is the desert here after a rain because obviously it's a desert. It doesn't rain very often. But afterwards, oh, man. If it rains, like I’m going outside because it's such a cool experience for me where I can just plug into my senses, and it feels fresh. It’s rejuvenating. It’s something different. It kind of breaks up this common pattern that I am so susceptible to falling into.
So, yeah, just plugging in and call it mindfulness, mindful awareness, meditation. It’s all really kind of all in that same thing but just plug into your senses, and you can do this anywhere. But one thing I’ve loved about the pandemic and I noticed this, we're actually able to safely visit some of my in-laws, and they live down in Austin, Texas. Here in Moab, everybody's life revolves around getting outside, and we have a ton of space and not a huge population. So we've – Our lives here for most of us, they weren't too radically altered. You'd still see people outside doing their thing because that's kind of what we do here. It was so cool for me to be down in Austin, and I was working in my in-laws little study there and looking outside. I had never seen their streets so alive with traffic, just people walking. Some people were definitely on business calls walking down the street. Some were just out with the strollers and the kids. I’ve been down there before, and I’d never seen that, even the same time of year with the same nice weather that they're having.
That was really cool for me to see. I think going back to this mindful component and just plugging into your senses, just do that. Do that down the road. Kind of intentionally look at places you've been before like from a different perspective. Notice something. Like just notice a tree. Don't worry about, “Oh, gosh. How am I going to be judged? Am I going to look like some weirdo out here walking down the road or the city park and like looking at a tree?” No. You're just a person looking at a tree. What is so wrong with enjoying nature and it just acknowledging it? Nothing. But you probably don't do it very often, so it seemed like it might be oddball behavior. But just to be bold with it. This is our life. Nature is a part of it. Embrace it. You're only going to be better off for doing so.
[00:26:54] CA: Yeah. I love that theme of vulnerability that seems to be coming up quite a bit when you talk about being out in nature. That's what I think about when I think of whether it's rafting in Chile or hiking at 14 or whatever nature place. I mean, even an easy hike, is you have to weigh your choices. It's back to choices and you have to – Especially when you're with other people, you have to decide whether you admit that you're struggling or that something is too difficult or that you're scared. Or you just twisted your ankle and it really hurts. Or be proud, prideful. I don't know if that's a word. But full of pride and suck it in and not admit that something is off, and you may need other people's help. I always find that when you're out in nature, it's like, “Well, I could struggle and then possibly fall off this cliff.” Or I could just say, “Hey, I’m really scared of heights. How am I going to go through this?”
[00:27:53] SE: Cristina, that's awesome that you said that. What comes to mind for me and this is what I’ve seen more in group settings is kind of with that last part you said about just acknowledging it or saying like, “I’m really scared of heights.” In a group setting, when an individual shares that vulnerability, something like that, I can't tell you how many times I’ve just seen a beautiful response from the group. It becomes this rallying cry like, “Oh, you just shared that. Cool. We got your back.” I mean, I’ve even seen it with veterans, groups of veterans that have come together from all over veterans that don't know each other. If you have a stress response to heights and your body shuts down, like you can't do too much about that. But then you see when people pick up on that, whether someone has been explicit about their vulnerability or it's just so apparent, people notice that. There's this innate goodness in people. We want to help out. You see someone who's wounded. You want to help heal them.
It’s so cool that you brought that up because, I mean, I’ve seen it and I think just situations in the outdoors lend itself to that more often because in the office, there can be so much bravado and ego, and “Well, I’m supposed to be an expert in this, so I need to appear that I am.” The antithesis of that would be showing vulnerability but it's like, “Well, I don't know.” I don't think I would quite agree with that because I think that you can strengthen a team when individuals show vulnerability.
[00:29:43] CA: Well, and it's such a different feeling and also a way of showing up from the support point of view because when you're out hiking and somebody shares I’m scared of heights, it’s that good side of people’s natures comes up, and they’re all there to support. They’re not just going to – Hopefully, you’re with a group of people that are not just going to turn around and be like, “Yeah, tough love. Figure it out. We are going to see you up there when you get there.”
[00:30:09] SE: Maybe find some new adventure buddies there.
[00:30:11] CA: Yeah, exactly. Pick your adventure buddies better. But if you could translate that into the meeting rooms into the office, that's where it's missing. That's where sometimes when you are vulnerable and you have the wrong adventure buddies with you, then you say, “I don't understand this,” or have any questions. Then you get shut down. Then you get the shame of, “Well, I’ve explained it to you three times. Why do I have to explain to you again?” How can we transfer that outdoor? We're all one into the indoor. Now, you're on your own.
[00:30:42] SE: Yeah. That's a great question. I think really it's for individuals to answer that according to their situation. What I personally think about that though is what an opportunity for kind of like a top-down approach. When the leader can show vulnerability, oh, my goodness, that just – I mean, it just puts everybody so much more at ease and just like, “Oh, they're doing it, so I can do it as well.” I mean, talk about – I’ve heard on your podcast before talking about culture and company culture. What a good way to form company culture. If your leaders are able to admit their vulnerabilities and be vulnerable, then you're going to have that come from others and you're not going to have any of this kind of like fake it till you make it. You faked it through something but you actually messed it up because you didn't feel very confident at it because you weren't competent, and that's okay. That happens. We can't all do it all. Yeah. I think top down is just what a good attribute of leadership.
[00:31:51] AC: It's a really strong move. I mean, if you think about just the experience of being on the non-leadership side of things. I mean, imagine thinking that you're on a team of people who because they're all linked to their own bravado and linked to their own like lack of desire to show any vulnerability. If you either buy into that, you'll either see a bunch of people that seem competent in your job. At which point you will feel like, “Oh, man. I better like either step it up or really be right about everything I’m doing.” At which point everybody's kind of playing this domino's game of like who's going to fall first. Who’s going to be able to keep this up? The stress gets higher and higher, and the stakes feel higher and higher to like keep that appearance up, whereas even just one person taking that guard down for a second. Everybody's like, “Oh, yeah. I don't know what I’m doing either, so let’s just jump right into this.”
[00:32:40] SE: Such value in that as well. It's kind of like when you're in the room and you've got that question, but you're scared to ask it because you might be perceived or you're worried about how you'll be perceived. But someone else asks the question and everybody's like, “Oh, god. Thank you. I was wanting to ask that too.” That kind of comes to mind to me in that situation as well.
[00:33:01] AC: It’s so easy to fall into that over and over again. I love the idea of doing this in nature because it's so much like forced good habits. As long as you like – I love what you said like – It was a while ago but I’m going to call this back like 20 minutes later. You’re talking about creating comfort for people. You're already outside of your comfort zone but you create kind of the safety, and that is the sweet spot I think personally for growth. You are out of your comfort zone but you feel supported. So then you have the ability to just make totally different choices, make choices you might not have made before. You get to have much more bold action. It's like forced vulnerability, forced outside of your comfort zone.
If you can have that guide, it’s like you were saying about just having a coach in general. You get to kind of fast track this realization, really push into a mindset that by default has all of these great habits that we know about built into it.
[00:33:53] SE: Yeah. As you were talking there, just a comment. This saying, this quote came to mind, and I have no idea where I originally heard it, but it really helped guide me in a lot of my instructional work. But it's comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
[00:34:12] AC: I like that.
[00:34:12] CA: Yeah. I like that a lot.
[00:34:14] AC: But that is a giant poster on my wall like — I like that alot! This is just a good mental model to keep for yourself because then you start to get more comfortable. It’s time to maybe afflict a little bit.
[00:34:24] SE: Yeah. It’s so much tied to comfort zones. If you picture – I don't – There's this model I’ve seen, and this is used in outdoor education a bunch. It’s your comfort zone, so you've got your comfort zone. If you picture that a circle in the middle and then expand out from that, you've got your panic zone. As an educator, you're continually trying to bring people out a little bit to like the edge of that comfort zone because that's where the growth is going to happen. Don't go into the panic zone because that's going to be mis-educational, and that just has a detrimental effect. But you don't want to stay too close to the center of that comfort zone because there's no growth there.
With the outdoors especially, we talk a lot about flow. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, kind of the grandfather of flow wrote the book Flow. You take that model and you transpose that into flow. Where that flow state happens is going to be right there at the edge of the comfort zone before you're in panic, so you've got this increased difficulty where the task at hand is engaging. It's not too easy, which that would be boring and you wouldn't learn much from that. Anyways, now I’m just going on a little bit here, but I see that so much with these comfort zones. If you need to be comfortable because you were just in your panic zone, that's comfort. But if you've been too much there, you need to be afflicted a little bit, pushed out to the outer ring of that or the outer edge of that comfort zone but not in the panic zone. That's not good.
[00:35:59] CA: I like the explanations of the zones because it then reminds me of how there's a lot of expectations or maybe the places I’ve worked at. But there's a lot of expectations that it's always sink or swim. So you're either in the comfort zone or you're either in the panic zone because swimming your comfort, sinking your panic. How do you build a culture where it's not so binary? You get to maybe learn how to swim better. Maybe have help in the swimming until you can do it on your own, and then you go to the next level. Instead of having this, you're either an expert or you got to figure it out.
[00:36:41] SE: That's where I think it's so key for supervisors and managers to know their people. I feel like there has been this shift of recognizing we are more than who we are at work. We're more than employees. There's more to our lives.
[00:36:58] CA: No way.
[00:36:59] SE: Right. Wow.
[00:37:02] AC: [inaudible 00:37:02].
[00:37:05] CA: 5,000 years to get to this and a few pandemics.
[00:37:08] AC: Unbelievable.
[00:37:09] CA: Unbelievable.
[00:37:13] SE: As a manager or a supervisor, having a pulse on that because if it's just sink or swim, well, I mean, you might think, “Well, they've had it pretty easy at work here for a while, so I’m going to afflict them. I’m going to throw them into the deep end. They're going to –” It’s like they just went through a divorce. Their kid is struggling or all their kids are struggling. Or maybe they're just coming back from maternity leave. It’s knowing more of these things and what's going on with people. That way, you can adjust that workload and expectations to match where that person is at. Of course, you know you still have your job description. You still have to perform your baseline duties. But plugging in and knowing your people, that's so important.
[00:37:57] AC: That's one of those great ones that you're talking about like going to Austin and seeing people, doing business calls outdoors and things. That's another aspect of the pandemic that I think really helped because everybody had this collective experience on the outside of work where we're all trying to deal with pandemic life having kids, doing e-learning, trying to decide how safe it is to go to a grocery store. Even like every single thing became a different decision that we were all sharing. Suddenly, that provided the like framework that we could all rely on to be like, “It’s not going great for me right now.” Everybody's like, “Of course, it's not going great for any of us.”
But if we can accept that at other times where there's not just a global pandemic, that happens all the time in life, like you're saying. Maybe you're going through a divorce. Maybe it just happens to be one of your kids is struggling. Whatever it is, I think that's one great thing that the pandemic has been able to highlight. Because we can share this experience, we're more allowed to have that vulnerability, and hopefully we keep that going.
[00:38:49] SE: Yeah. I agree with you. I’ll be so curious. I wish I could fast forward like 5 years, 10 years and just get a glimpse and see, okay, what stuck from this situation. Because it is a pretty radical shakeup from what we're used to, and it has forced us to kind of choose and rethink things and kind of come into like consciousness of the choices we make. Not to totally dress it up, I mean, it's been really difficult, and some people have really experienced some – They've experienced loss, and so just to acknowledge that. I mean, I try to see the silver lining of it but just want to acknowledge. Yeah. It’s definitely been hard for folks as well.
[00:39:36] AC: Yeah. That's kind of the fun part about what you're talking about with Healthy Outside is you have this uncomfortable situation of being outdoors, and you're providing that comfort. That's where the pandemic kind of falls short. It's an uncomfortable situation. It's not so easy to provide that comfort. That's where it's a lot more difficult. But I do want to highlight one thing that I was thinking about when you're talking about like consciousness and choice in the moment. That's another piece that I think I hadn't thought of before. But whenever I’m on hikes and whenever I’m outdoors and doing skiing and doing any kind of physical activity, there's so much need to be present.
I mean, as you get better at things, as you become a better skier, you might. It’s a little bit more flow. You might just kind of experience some of the scenery a little more. But especially as you get into something, you have to be present, and it forces another like angle of mindfulness on top of the discomfort, on top of the needing to work as a community. All of these things come together in a great way that I hadn't really thought about when you're forced to be out in nature. I mean, when you're walking up a cliff, it's pretty important to think about where your feet are, right? There’s not another – You can't just be thinking about what your grocery store trip is going to be like.
[00:40:45] SE: Yeah, exactly. It’s kind of interesting. For me personally, so much, everything I do is kind of revolving around the outdoors; hobbies, work, what have you. With my own hobbies, there's – I pursue the outdoors in different ways like for different outcomes. Sometimes, I just need a really intense cardio workout, and so I’ll get on my bike. Here in Moab, we have no shortage of mountain bike trails that are a variety of kind of easy to really hard and strenuous. I just go, and it's more of kind of this masochistic endeavor where it's just really physically demanding, and I am just totally in the moment and really mindful of every pedal, every body movement, my breath.
Then other times like this morning, I’m just going to go out for a little saunter and just kind of clear my mind and allow it to just kind of go wherever it wants. Think about this, that and look at this bush like, “Oh, cool. Things are starting to bloom. The cactus are starting to turn green from purple,” which they turn over winter and just kind of tap into this kind of universal connection. That's one of the things I get from nature. So it kind of suits my needs in different – Whatever my needs are at the time.
[00:42:16] CA: That's what I find addictive about being out in nature is that forced clear mind because you have to pay attention to what you're stepping on, even in an easy hike at least in Colorado, around here. You have to kind of pay attention to see if there's a rattlesnake around the corner. But in general, you're just kind of like observing, even without I guess consciously or the intention. With intention is even better. But even without the intention, you see an eagle fly by. You're going to pay attention to that and then spend a few minutes thinking about what you just saw. So you're forced to stop worrying about whatever is going on or your work problems, the dishes in the sink. Whatever the mundane automatic life is kind of goes away when you're in nature. That’s one perspective that I really love.
Then the second thing I get a lot from being out in nature is also the how small my problems are and how small my life is, how small I am. When you're on top of a mountain skiing and you look around and you're like, “Wow. I’m really like less than a dot,” which means whatever worry or problem or resentment I was feeling, it's like it doesn't even exist. It's so small compared to the universe around me.
[00:43:33] SE: Yeah, so true. Yeah. It’s just so powerful to take those moments. The word awe comes to mind for me, just stopping and looking around. Whether you live in an area – I mean, I think personally I feel very fortunate to live in the intermountain west where we have just big landscape and terrain and a lot of land. But whether you're able to access that or go to more of a local park and just seeing a big grove of trees. I mean, you look at a tree and what an incredible thing. That seems so complicated. Yet it's so simple, and they're massive. If you took a tree and just you kind of like whittled it all down, so it's mass in and of itself, so big in and of itself, so interconnected to this larger system that we rely on. It’s like, “Yeah. Maybe my problems aren't so big.”
[00:44:30] AC: I think there's another fun layer of perspective you can get from nature. Sometimes, I think about this after going on a hike or traveling somewhere else, especially when you travel somewhere else because there's a lot of beautiful landscapes but there's not a ton of necessarily biodiversity in a place like as dry as Colorado. So you get a few types of pine trees. You get a few types of scrub brush. Those are the main staples of what we get here. So when you travel elsewhere, you see other kinds of vegetation in life.
Sometimes, it's interesting to remember that that palm tree I saw on a beach five years ago, that's still there. That's just hanging out. It lived every day on that beach there. That pine tree I drove past, that's still there. That one that I touched at the very top of the summit to mark that I’d made it, like that one's just hanging out blowing in the wind on the summit right now. That still exists, even though I had no knowledge of it before. I haven't thought about it a lot since then, but those things are still out there. That provides another layer of like time-distanced perspective sometimes that I find, again, kind of incites that idea of awe.
[00:45:32] SE: I totally agree with that. For me, there's something that's really connecting to me about that. We are just parts of a greater whole. I just – I don't know. We just are.
[00:45:48] CA: It’s very obvious when we are out in nature that we are.
[00:45:51] AC: That's so interesting just the number of things that you can get out of nature that we've read the studies about how it's helpful to be vulnerable, how it's helpful to be mindful, how it's helpful to be present, how it's helpful to support each other, how it's helpful to remember the whole. What a great encapsulation of having to do all of those things at once almost by default because you're outside, because you're experiencing something that large. I mean, it forces the issue for you. It's not a practice of trying to get yourself into that space. You physically put yourself in that space, and now it has to be that way, and that's interesting.
[00:46:24] SE: Yeah. I mean, you all talk so much about authenticity like nature is by default –
[00:46:30] AC: It’s about as authentic as it gets — yeah!
[00:46:35] CA: Yeah. It doesn't really care what other trees think about. It just does whatever it needs to do. Yeah. Besides wanting to have every single team that ever gets created on the planet come to Healthy Outside and do a half-day hike before they start working together, which I think everybody needs to do. We should probably do that as well.
[00:46:58] AC: Probably.
[00:46:59] CA: But there are lots of tips and insights on the benefits of nature and being out there, the vulnerability, the connection, the support. I love the idea of everybody supporting you, so lots of things to take away that we should probably start doing, even when we're not into nature or get into nature more often.
[00:47:18] AC: One thing you brought up, Steve, when we were first talking about some of this stuff and that I’d just like to highlight is because I think you probably have some deep experience with this is some of the gratitude you get to experience when you see nature. So if you have thoughts on that too because that's another pillar that we know is important. We know it's important to take stock of gratitude in life. Very easy not to do that day to day when you're just automatically running through things, but you'd mention just feeling a lot of gratitude when you get to live in Moab. You get to do these outdoor things. How does that play into Healthy Outside and how does that play into your experience with it?
[00:47:53] SE: Well, for me personally, when I’m outside in nature in these beautiful areas, I try consciously to recognize my gratitude because it's a value of mine getting outside, enjoying nature. I recognize that might not be a value for everybody. For me, it is, and so I like to recognize that as often as I can. Whether it's simply just looking at a beautiful landscape, like I’m kind of just innately grateful for that and I try to recognize that. What we were just talking about before and this element of awe and connection and looking at whether it's a beautiful grove of trees or the biodiversity of a certain locality or a big mountain skiing, being out and kind of seeing, “Well, all right. This is –” How would I do living out here with none of the amenities and let's just say the material things in my life?
I think that is a pretty obvious thing, especially if you've been sleeping on the ground for – You get to about a week or, sorry, not week. I mean, it could be week three. Day three and you start to become pretty grateful for those things that you do have in your life because just the routine things become a little bit more arduous. I think that really helps connect with gratitude and just what we have. I mean, we're at a time in human civilization where comforts and all the amenities we have, they've never been so readily available to so many. I want to acknowledge that we are extremely fortunate here in the US, and there are even some in the US that are certainly less fortunate and don't have access to the number of amenities that a lot of us have. Then expand that beyond into the world at large. But by and large, I feel confident in saying currently in human history, there's never been civilization that has had such access to comforts.
You go outside where you're stripped of those. Sure, you're probably wearing some nice clothing that's comfortable. It's suitable for different types of weather, and you still are very largely I think pampered in my opinion. But you do strip away a lot of those comforts and those amenities. That in and of itself, you recognize that, and you practice gratitude with that, and you're going to feel those health benefits as a result.
[00:50:23] AC: That's a really good one too. That's another tie I feel like with the tie in with the pandemic a little bit. I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately about like, “Well, what do you miss most? What do you miss most from life before the pandemic? What do you miss most about normal life?” That says a lot about what you value and when you go out into nature. Even though we have – What do we have? Negative zero, subzero sleeping bags and stuff. We have all kinds of equipment we can use for comfort, but what do you miss about that you can't have out there? What is something that you are thinking about not in the like repetitive stress syndrome of thinking about what is my daily agenda and what calls am I missing right now? But what do I genuinely appreciate that I maybe can't access right now and what do I appreciate about not having some of the things that I can access all the time?
[00:51:12] SE: A lot of the times too, when you're out doors with friends, your partner, or just a welcoming group, you get stripped of these other amenities. But then you're reminded. Well, these are the things that are there that I can rely on, that are always going to be there. Regardless of those amenities, whether I have them or don't have them, those material things, it's like, “Well, I could be okay without those because I’m here in this moment with these people that I’m connecting with that I care about. They care about me.” That’s going to be there just like nature. It's constant. It's there. For me personally, those have always been things that I’ve concentrated on because those other things, they come and go, whatever. They're nice to have, but I can do without them because I like these other things.
[00:52:02] CA: That's a wonderful perspective.
[00:52:05] AC: Let's see. You make a great case for getting outdoors more. I feel like I’m going to have to actually leave my house today.
[00:52:10] CA: Yeah. I might too.
[00:52:10] SE: Do it. Do it. I actually just did a little post on my walk today. I just did a little video. I was just like, “Good morning. Go outside.”
[00:52:19] CA: Yeah. I definitely need to get outside, especially before the 45 feet of snow that we're getting this weekend.
[00:52:25] AC: Whatever we're up to now.
[00:52:27] CA: Whatever ice age.
[00:52:29] SE: I just put a plug in for don't make it something major. Just start with I’m going to go outside for 10 minutes. If it is just 10 minutes, cool. You will have done 10 minutes. If it snowballs from there, well, snowballs for you all. That's coming up. It’s a bad joke. Anyway, if it does –
[00:52:46] CA: Avalanche for us.
[00:52:47] SE: Yeah. Right, yeah. Avalanche is for you all. If it snowballs, it snowballs. Cool. At the end of it all, you'll have gone outside and gotten the benefits of fresh air, clean air, possibly some physical exercise with it. If nothing else, like the net gain is going to be positive.
[00:53:07] CA: It definitely is. Steve, what does authenticity mean to you?
[00:53:11] SE: I think it means being conscious and choosing and being okay with who you are because no one has the right answer. We all provide something unique to this world, and so be okay with that. We’re all parts to a greater sum, so be yourself and do it by choice. If you realize you're unconscious, hopefully not physically literally unconscious but just going through the motions, stop.
[00:53:45] AC: That's a great definition.
[00:53:47] CA: Yeah, a great definition. I love the choice and I love the if you realize you're unconscious, yeah, do something about it.
[00:53:54] SE: Well, that's another fun thing. You get this – I’ve noticed this more specifically on multi-day trips in the outdoors. I call it wilderness weird. People just – You have so much time and you don't have the distractions of, say, social media or a screen or whatever. So you just kind of step into like this level of authenticity, and you just get kind of goofy out there. Each group will form its own little inside jokes, and you become more comfortable with each other, so you do get silly. Whether it's a means of passing the time or you truly do like when you're in a good supportive group, maybe it is just you drop your guard and you can be your full authentic self.
But, yeah, I love it, just the wilderness weird. Not a whole lot of people probably know what I’m saying when I say that, unless you've been kind of on these multi-day trips where you get silly out there. I don't know.
[00:54:58] CA: I haven't been on a multi-day trip but I get what you're saying. I’ve been in an all-day kind of adventure where it takes the 8-10 hours, 12 hours, and I definitely get that. It’s liberating.
[00:55:12] SE: Yeah. That's a good word for it. Actually, Alex, you'd asked me before like some of the things I do to try to encourage this healthier perspective or healthier experience or more mindful experience maybe you said. That's one of the things too. I try to help people drop their guards, and I can get silly and not like over-the-board silly. But I’ll just be myself and be goofy. Tell jokes and make people feel seen. Then step back and let other people crack their own jokes and have comments and acknowledge those when they do happen. I think that's another part is just helping people drop their guards, putting them at ease, and make them feel seen. Yeah.
[00:56:01] CA: So energizing.
[00:56:03] AC: I love it.
[00:56:04] CA: I just get this image because I felt it myself of not expanding so much energy, keeping the armor up, and just letting it go. All of a sudden, it's like, “Oh, I can just be,” and look at all the stuff that happens when I can just be.
[00:56:20] AC: Spend your energy on being, rather than on the defense.
[00:56:24] SE: Yeah. That's a great way to put it.
[00:56:29] CA: Steve, thank you for the wonderful conversation. Where can people find you and Healthy Outside?
[00:56:36] SE: Healthyoutside.com. Got a Facebook page too. It’s whatever Facebook is, /healthyoutsidemoab. I have a LinkedIn but I don't really use it. Maybe we can connect that in show notes or something.
[00:56:49] CA: Yes, we’ll definitely do that.
[00:56:51] SE: I probably have to do some editing.
[00:56:53] CA: We'll add that. Excellent, yes. I’m sure that we'll come out and do one of your half-day mind and body hikes very soon.
[00:57:01] SE: I would love to have you all and show you around Moab. I’ll give you the VIP treatment.
[00:57:07] CA: Excellent. Just guarantee that there are no rattlesnakes, and I’ll be there.
[00:57:14] SE: I’ll do my best.
[00:57:18] AC: It seemed to me like the Clorox guarantee, like 99%.
[00:57:23] SE: They're so rare out here. They're so rare. Really cool too when you do see one.
[00:57:28] CA: Yeah. They're not so rare out here, but I still haven't seen one.
[00:57:34] AC: Well, thank you so much for joining, Steve. It's great to connect on this. I hope everybody gets a chance to go outdoors on their own and also a chance to check out Healthy Outside.
[00:57:41] SE: Thanks. I appreciate being on your show.
[00:57:43] CA: Exactly — thank you. Thank you for listening.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[00:57:47] CA: Thank you for listening to Uncover the Human, a Siamo podcast.
[00:57:51] AC: Special thanks to our podcast operations wizard, Jake Lara, and our score creator, Rachel Sherwood.
[00:57:57] CA: If you have enjoyed this episode, please share, review, and subscribe. You can find our episodes wherever you listen to podcasts.
[00:58:04] AC: We would love to hear from you with feedback, topic ideas, or questions. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org or at our website, wearesiamo.com, LinkedIn, Instagram, or Facebook. We Are Siamo is spelled W-E A-R-E S-I-A-M-O.
[00:58:23] CA: Until next time, listen to yourself, listen to others, and always uncover the human.
Leadership and Life Coach | Adventure Retreat Creator
Steve has worked as an outdoor guide and instructor for the past 15 years. In addition to having worked in HR and training, he is a certified life coach. His experience spans both the for-profit and non-profit sectors. Witnessing how teams and individuals across the world handle (or don't handle) adversity and success in the outdoors has led him to his core belief: people need nature. He recently started Healthy Outside, which seeks to empower everyone to live a healthier, more fulfilling life by embracing the outdoors. Healthy Outside offers a fusion of unique, guided trips in Moab, Utah, 1 on 1 life coaching, and web content meant to inspire you to live your healthiest life.
Steve can be reached via the Healthy Outside website:
Or by email