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Wild Women Tribe helps participants connect, find motivation

As Renee Huang asked the group of women to talk about what motivation meant to us, my chest tightened and my mind raced.

If I’d had my own car, I might have just excused myself from the table, slinked out of the coffee shop and away from anything that asked me why I spent more time wishing than working for those things I dream of doing.

Motivation feels like my nemesis.

Just when I feel like I have it figured out, the puzzle changes.

It’s that joke that everyone but me understands — and finds hilarious. I, on the other hand, just smile and nod and hide away so I can beat myself up for, first, not being willing to admit I don’t get it and, second, not having what seems to come so natural for everyone else.

So the question didn’t just make me uneasy. It made me cry.

Yes, indeed. Contemplating what motivates me in the midst of total strangers made me cry real tears.

The incident, which is how I will forever refer to this moment, began with multiple introductions to Huang in the fall. Huang is the director of communications and digital media for the Utah Symphony and Utah Opera, and not too long ago, she started thinking about the meaning of her own life.

An accomplished, creative woman who loves her children and the outdoors, Huang had one of those ideas that seem inspired.

“It kind of came in the right time in my life,” she said of her decision to create Wild Women Tribe. “I was taking a look at my life, at finding purpose, taking deeper meaning in a lot of the things that really mattered in life, like the people you surround yourself with and the people who support you and having a relationship with the outdoors.”

She said nature, for her, is cathartic. She thought it might be for others.

“I realized how it can provide a safe space for people to connect with themselves, with others and the natural,” she said.

So she decided to create a group that could be a source of inspiration, networking, support and fitness. She approached business owners asking if they’d support the idea of a mini-retreat, and the response was overwhelming.

Wild Women Tribe Wanders began in November, and exceeded every expectation Huang had.

“It really surprised me the reach that it got just on social media, just organically,” she said. “It’s hit the nail on the head. The (women) are looking for connection, and they show up and push themselves, and it just validated an instinct I had. It’s bigger than what I originally thought it might be.”

I signed up for a Wild Women Wander on Saturday, Jan. 13. I went alone because it was a last-minute decision.

The morning began with yoga at Tadasana, and then shifted to hiking on a nearby Park City trail.

Our yoga teacher wasn’t in on any theme, but she started class with a quote that essentially said if you want to pursue a dream, “Commit, and then figure it out.” I couldn’t get that out of my head, even as I struggled to keep up with the pace of the class.

We were supposed to snowshoe through the Park City mountains, but the lack of snow made it a hike. That didn’t matter as we walked and talked and just took in a beautiful view. Midway through the hike, Huang asked us to write on a piece of paper she provided one word that kept us from accomplishing our dreams. Then we huddled around our paper pile of regret words and burned them.

It seemed both ridiculous and liberating.

For me, the hike was a mixture of a bit of exercise, great conversation, new connections and just the joy of walking in a pack of women enjoying each other and the beauty of the outdoors.

We finished with breakfast at Hugo’s Coffee Shop and a discussion about motivation that ended with vision boards.

When I read the part about vision boards, I just assumed I’d skip this part.

But after Huang’s question and my subsequent tears, I listened to the women talk about what motivated them — and what stymied them. I was moved by their openness, their compassion for each other and their desire to continue trying to unlock that puzzle.

So I started clipping pictures out of magazines. As I did, I kept wrestling with that question. What did motivation mean to me?

I had a much easier time pointing to all the ways I sabotaged myself. And that’s when I realized two things. If I didn’t believe in myself, why would anyone else? And when did I convince myself that pursuing one's dreams should be easier than avoiding them?

I remembered a conversation I had with Utah volleyball coach Beth Launiere about how her team turned its season around after a frustrating losing streak. I’ve discussed losing streaks with many coaches and many times in my career, and it’s always interesting to hear the different philosophies. But this one stuck with me.

“At the end of the day, the team kept working,” she said. “I come from the Midwest; it’s kind of a blue-collar mentality that if you just do the work, something good is going to happen. And that was our mentality all along. Just do the work, and we’re going to find some wins.”

I cut and talked and thought. When I finally glued the pictures in place, I felt a comfortable confidence that I’d been missing for many months.

I felt silly. I felt fortunate. I felt grateful.

I loved so many things about the five hours I spent thinking about my dreams. The beauty and joy of that experience comes back to me every time I look at my little vision board, which now hangs above the printer in my office.

I am not sure I unlocked any puzzles, and I admit I’m still struggling with motivation. But everything is better than it was.

Maybe one of the most valuable gifts I gained from the Wild Women Tribe Wander is the knowledge that there are lots of people out there struggling with the same things in the same ways. I’m not unique in my failure — or my successes.

And that was sort of what Huang felt more than she knew when she created her group events — which have sold out every time and attracted women from all over the state.

“I’ve been talking to other women who want to start doing the same things in their communities,” she said. “It’s about everyone stepping up and stepping in and taking that initiative and passing it on.”

She said she created the groups as women only because that would allow for different interactions.

“We exist more naturally in a state of vulnerability,” she said. “We’re more comfortable sharing our feelings. It automatically feels kind of safe.”

The next Wander excursions will be in March, and she hopes to offer two short camping trips in the summer. She’s had tremendous support from business owners, many of them women, who offered free samples and discount coupons that made for a lovely companion gift to the journal Huang gave us at the end of our outing.

Two weeks after that outing, I’ve committed, but I still have a lot to figure out. In fact, there is only one thing that I am certain of as I consider what might get me to my goals — we may have to do our own work, but a reliable network of support might be the key to enjoying any journey.