Mission Impossible

A group of friends and I tried an Escape Room the other day. What is an escape room? A themed room where you’re locked in for sixty minutes. You have to solve some puzzles to find clues leading to the ultimate clue that will unlock the door. Nine other people can join you in this adventure. (There were six of us.) You have to reserve the room in advance, and are expected to be there early.

We started by signing a waiver in which we agreed not to reveal the secrets of the room and agreed that we wouldn’t hold the company liable if we somehow harmed ourselves in the room.

Sounds ominous, right?

Then we were briefed on the room and the rules. We went into it, boasting that we could beat the record time for getting out of the room (a little over 29 minutes). We assured ourselves, “We got this. We got this.”

The clock was visible high on the wall. We tried not to look at it at first. We started off strong, finding the first clue early. Forty-nine minutes left? Ha. Piece of cake.

Tick.

We worked well as a team, splitting up to solve separate puzzles when necessary. “Oh man, we definitely got this,” we congratulated ourselves.

Tock.

But then one puzzle stumped part of our team. So we delegated it to another part.

Tick.

But that didn’t work, so all of us gathered around, trying to solve one puzzle.

Tock.

Oh man. Still couldn’t get it. So, we moved on to another puzzle, leaving the hard one for the present. But then we had to come back to it. We couldn’t ignore it forever.

Tick.

It took so long to solve. Sooo long. One person sat on the floor, unsure what to do next, unsure where to find the next clue. We asked each other if we should ask for clues. We could get up to three. So, we asked for clues. One at a time, they came sliding under the door.

What a relief. We’re back on track. Yes! And we’ve still got time. Still got time.

Tock.

Finally, one last clue to go. But where to find it?

Tick.

Oh good grief is that all the time we have left? Hurry. Hurry!

Tock.

Where is the last clue? Where?! Why are you just standing there? Why aren’t you doing anything??

We came out with our heads hanging low, having failed to discover the very last clue that would have unlocked the door.

Isn’t it interesting what happens when you add pressure to the mix? You can be convinced initially that you can conquer, only to later discover that you couldn’t. Instead, you’d caved under pressure.

In a number of heist movies, a thief or a team of thieves would rehearse a heist by listening to a countdown. In this way, they would get used to the pressure of time as they worked through the obstacles. This helped them avoid panicking as the seconds ticked away during the heist.

Before we arrived at the Escape Room, we played an Escape Room board game. But it was far different from the reality of the room.

Though articles have been written about using Escape Rooms for corporate team building, the biggest lesson for me was not that aspect. Instead, the Escape Room showed me how I often react under pressure—I panic and give up—and how much growth I need to survive the pressure cooker of life. Granted, this kind of pressure was a little contrived. How often are we locked in rooms after all? But life will throw plenty of make-or-break episodes my way in the form of deadlines, unexpected news, rejections, etc. One thing I know I can do—brush up on positive ways to deal with stress.

How do you react when you’re under pressure?

Escape room image from twitter.com. Pressure image from warriormindcoach.com. Panic button from justcourses.com.

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24 thoughts on “Mission Impossible

  1. You ratcheted up the tension while writing this blog post! It helped to put me in the room with you. I appreciate the realization you had about yourself in that room. It’s good to remember that we need to hold onto a positive attitude no matter the pressure because that attitude can help to keep our minds open as we work through the pressure. Thanks!

    • Yay. Thank you! Yes, keeping one’s mind open takes such discipline. I’ll try to remember that. And remember to breathe deeply. I always forget to do that in stressful situations.

  2. This sounds like fun but also a bit stressful. Just the words ‘Escape Room’ create a sort of stress in me. Escape? From what? I read somewhere that condensed pressure like this, whether perceived or real, can completely shut down the problem solving part of your brain.

    • It’s funny how you start to forget basic things while in a stressful situation. It reminds me of when I tried to say some rudimentary phrases in Mandarin to a Mandarin speaker. But all of the words swirling in my mind were Spanish words!

  3. Wow! Very interesting, L. Marie. Fascinating how we can lose confidence when under pressure. When panicked, I become frightened, tense, frozen. I am like a caged animal looking frantically for a way out. Then, I slow down – way down. The words “still my heart” are most always said and almost always I find my way out. Hmm ???

    • An interesting thought, Penny. Maybe that’s why deep breathing helps calm us in tense situations. I was practically hyperventilating! But it’s interesting what you focus on, and what you forget to focus on. 😀

  4. Sounds like a fun (though sometimes frustrating) time, L. Marie! Stress is ever-present, so I try to do what I can before it hits – prepare. Whether that’s reminding myself beforehand of what I’ll be facing or practicing tactics to deal with it in the moment, I’ve found that a combination of those things has helped me deal better with the moment and not beat myself up too much in the aftermath!

    • Good plan, Phillip. It’s good to live with the expectation that stress will indeed come and that we can get through it. I tend to clench up at crucial moments (like when I have to have blood drawn). 😦

  5. Is there really such a place? I’ve never heard of an Escape Room. Where are they typically located? I tend to work better under pressure, but being in a place with that name, I’d probably choke. Great post!

    • Ha ha, yup. 😀

      We couldn’t bring anything into the room. Had to leave everything in a locker beforehand. And we weren’t handed anything to read. We went into the room and had to figure out what was a clue and what wasn’t.

  6. Not sure I’d do well in a mandatory lock-in situation as I’m a bit claustrophic! HA! But I like the life-lessons you shared taking us along for the fun ride at the same time in your style of writing the account!

  7. My future daughter-in-law has created Escape Rooms, and until then, both she and my son were fans of them. She is so calm under pressure. I don’t think she’s ever come out with head hanging. For my part, I’ve never done an Escape Room and I’ve never worked for a large corporation long enough to be involved in any team activity.

    • Wow. My hat is off to your future daughter-in-law. There are sooooo many details to those rooms! I would not be someone who would create one. Someone who loves codes would be good at them.

  8. Interesting. I’d never heard of Escape Rooms. I liked the first part when you were all so confident and worked together. Failure or temporary failure does ramp up the tension, especially when you have a deadline. In our daily lives, we often have the chance to get a good night’s sleep and then try again. When I’m writing and get stuck, it seldom helps to keep pushing. That just builds up the stress and blocks my thinking. Walking around the house or eating a little snack in front of the TV gives me a chance to start over.

    • I agree with you, Nicki. I find that driving somewhere or washing dishes or doing something else creative helps me push past the wall. This is why I didn’t post anything today as I usually do. Still waiting to be inspired. 😀

  9. Ooh, that sounds like fun! I think I’d freak out though since my pet fear is being locked in or trapped and unable to get out. So I’d be the one banging on the door, screaming… 😉

    • I was starting to get to that point when they let us out, FF. 😀 I’m a bit claustrophobic (though the room was not tiny). But the activity was pretty clever.

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