Look what happens when you go outside your comfort zone?

“It’s been a massive learning curve; I feel like I need to have more confidence in myself because I doubt myself constantly....I feel like a much more confident person... I didn’t expect it to have any life effects on me; I just thought it was going to be really fun.”

“I knew it was going to be a good experience. I didn’t think the highs would be so high and the lows would be so low."

These were not comments from by people who came on my last Arctic trip. These were just some of the comments from the exodus of 'C' list stars in British television's 'I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here' reality programme.

For those who did not watch it or have never seen it in their country, I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! is a Britsh made reality TV series in which up to 12 celebrities live together in a jungleenvironment in Australia for three weeks. They have no luxuries and compete to be crowned king or queen of the jungle by completing a range of challenges each day from eating a cockroach smoothie or having insects, snakes and rats put into confined spaces with them. The first episode aired in August 2002 and a 16th UK series was aired in November 2016.

Whether it is dealing with creepy crawlies in the jungle of Australia or dogsledding across the Arctic, going outside your normal comfort zone creates changes within you. Your self-esteem grows, your confidence grows and neurologically there are changes.

We work with Red Bull in the US and one of the interesting experiments that they did a few years ago was take four surfers, with some ex-US Navy Seal guides and put them into Patagonia for an 8-day expedition. For this group of surfers, this was a whole new challenging experience for them.

See Red Bull's Project Acheron

The goal for Red Bull was to find out how Project Acheron may, or may not, have affected the athletes physically or psychologically, and how those results can help benefit athletic performance. They wanted to see if a dynamically challenging experience permanently (or temporarily) alters the way the brain perceives and reacts to stress.

In all of the above instances, whether it was the jungle, the Arctic or the mountains, these experiential learning experiences:

· Take you out of your comfort zone

· Stretches you physically and mentally

· Tests your resilience and perseverance

· Gives you hands-on learning

· Teaches you to bond and work as a team

· Breaks new mental, physical and spiritual barriers

· Leaves you time to reflect and take on what you have learnt

· Makes beneficial changes to your brain's pathways

Sitting in a meeting room or doing some sort of team-building at a fancy hotel on an away-day is great, but research has shown that change, whether that is mental, physical or intellectual does not take place quite as dramatically as one day in casual clothes, watching your boss make an idiot of himself. It takes time to change patterns of behaviour and it takes time for the brain to change.

In the case of the Red Bull project, they scanned the brains of the surfers both before and after the trip.

I think we’ll see the brain is better, more quickly, and more adaptively able to process these stressors,” hypothesises Martin P. Paulus, a psychiatrist at UC San Diego. “When you get to a certain level, what makes the really good athletes different from the OK ones is not athletic ability, it’s what’s above the neck.”

Guess what?

There was physical evidence of changes in the brain. The brain is an amazing organ that has high levels of plasticity and the ability to change an adapt.

In both the celebrities and the surfers, we can see the impact of their experiences. The same goes for our trips to the Arctic. See the interview with Susannah Constantine.

I firmly believe that experiential learning is a way to bring about change and improvement.

David Kolb's experiential learning model states that to gain genuine knowledge from an experience, the learner must have four abilities:

· The learner must be willing to be actively involved in the experience;

· The learner must be able to reflect on the experience;

· The learner must possess and use analytical skills to conceptualise the experience; and

· The learner must possess decision-making and problem-solving skills to use the new ideas gained from the experience.

We offer a range of different learning experiences for this very purpose if you are interested. We can also design bespoke ones as well.

Please see Peak Experiences.

Keep following Peak Dynamics for more insights into the stress-performance relationship