We were born to mountain climb. I’m not talking about the kind that requires gripped boots and ropes. Metaphorically, we are built to push our limits and accomplish huge things. We have the ability to take one step at a time and do incredible things physically, mentally, and emotionally. It’s in our nature. Don’t believe me? Head down to your local hospital and step foot into the maternity wing. Those women’s entire bodies transform to create another human. If that doesn’t stretch your mind, you watch way too much Sci-fi on Netflix. Go to a local gym and watch someone run a few miles every day until they walk out onto a road and run 26.2 without stopping. Walk into a preschool and most of the 4 year old’s are talking to themselves or eating paste. Yet, in 20 years, they could be delivering those tiny humans we created. Here’s the thing, we love to talk about taking on the mountains of life. Fiercely making those climbs. What we fail to discuss is the backside of the mountain.
The Secret to Mountain Climbing
Conquering a mountain is less about the task and more about conquering ourselves. We conquer our fears when we set out for that summit. As difficult as it is, climbing up the mountain is glamorous in many ways. It’s exhilarating, it’s only the beginning of the journey, and it gets the most attention and accolade. That’s where most of our focus goes. It’s the backside of the mountain that’s a whole other story. It’s the end of a journey and it requires us coming off the high. It garners no attention. You can’t change that reality, but you can strengthen your ability to handle it. I’m far from a life coach or Alpinist, but I have figured out a few things to strengthen my resolve in the process.
SET YOUR NEXT GOAL QUICKLY
I’m a perpetual optimist. My husband teases me because no matter what the outcome of anything I’ve ever done, it was “the best thing for me.” Everything was a lesson or a gift. Even the things that have towed the line of destroying my happiness or health. I HATE failure. More than I like to win. How’s that for a therapy session? The benefit has been that I don’t stay stuck in circumstances long. I find the diamond and move on. Sometimes it’s more diamond dust than a gem, but it’s something.
Stay intentional about your priorities.
I cringe and melt into a puddle of frustration when people talk about balance. Remember that whole perpetual optimism? Apparently it can also be perceived as unrealistic, obsessive, intense or out of balance. It drives me bonkers. Once and for all, let’s accept it. Striving for a balanced life can actually distract you from living a full life. It’s a grand fallacy that we can have equilibrium where nothing ever teeters or wavers. Folks, as long as the world turns, gravity exists, and you are in motion, it’s ridiculous to strive for balance as a permanent state. My life transformed when I decided to set priorities, time block and be intentional. I stopped letting people shame me into fitting some pre-fab box. What you consider a priority, might not be mine. That’s not grounds for a territory brawl.
Progression can be difficult. The climb, the backside of the mountain, the valley and the moments when you just can’t take it and you sit down are all challenging in different ways. We all have a tendency to wait until a good time to set a goal. Don’t do it. It won’t come, and you run the risk of living with regrets or running out of time altogether. Today is the best day to sit down, and write down what you want. Most of us overestimate what we can get done in a day and underestimate how much we can do in a year. Stop the cycle right now, and decide what that mission is for you.
YOUR SPHERE OF INFLUENCE MATTERS
This is always a touchy subject. Somehow, it gets interpreted as an elitist comment. Usually by people who aren’t big dreamers and don’t have big goals. I’ll take one for the team and just say it, though. You have to guard your time and mind. Spending large amounts of time with people who complain, criticize and condemn is the equivalent of sitting in the movie theatre and eating an entire bag of starburst. It feels great until the sugar crash and the extra baggage show up. For what it’s worth, I have been my own crabby companion at times. It’s the common-cold of attitudes. It shows up when you’ve been exposed to other crabby attitudes and it lingers for as long as you neglect it.
Eliminate toxic people from your life.
ONE toxic person can cause more heartache, and do more damage, than an army of complainers and criticizes. When I say toxic, I’m not talking about that one co-worker who is always bitter or the family member who always calls to complain. I’m talking about the people who go out of their way to cause problems. They destroy, they harass, they gaslight and gossip. I’ve heard people say, “I don’t want to be mean or rude by ignoring them. They probably had a hard life and need a friend.” Probably correct. I didn’t stay withhold love, but letting yourself be consumed, or your own dreams destroyed, by someone who is vindictive is not an extension of love. It’s a destruction of hope.
SEE VALUE IN CRITICISM THAT COUNTS
Take criticism at it’s value and not it’s price tag. Sometimes we except criticism because it comes from people we love, yet it still isn’t what we need to hear. Other times, we reject criticism from people who don’t like us or we don’t like, just because of the strain in the relationship. I have found that people that are angry with me give the most outlandish criticism right along side the boldest truths. The power is in being able to discern the difference.
Use a filter
I have a criticism filter, thanks to my husband. He said to me years ago, “When people speak poorly about you, take them out of the equation. Pretend it was someone you respect. Are they right?” Sometimes, it makes the criticism hilarious, other times it becomes a cure tipped dart. It stings, but it changes you for the better. We don’t like to admit that people are right about our shortcomings, but if it makes you better, who cares? You win. For the record, I am certainly not condoning that you allow people to tear you down regularly. Personally, I tuck things away or ignore it until I have the emotional strength to deal. I’ll say that again. If possible, don’t deal with negative or criticism until you are mentally ready to drop your guard and wise enough to review it.
SOCIAL MEDIA AVATARS DON’T DEFINE US
Stop pigeonholing yourself based on social media. How’s this for irony? My current job is to curate content for the social media pages and blogs of multiple businesses. I love it. For more than a year prior to accepting this role, I didn’t have social media. It became a time suck, and I couldn’t believe how much people used it as a social weapon. It’s like people have forgotten how to be human. They are just these extensions of themselves and their worth was based on being “liked” or “heard”. Online reputations can be the bathroom walls of society. Anybody can write anything about anybody or thing. It’s absurd, yet we are obsessed. Social media grants us inside looks into almost any place, person or thing. It’s reality that’s not real. It isn’t the entire picture. I called bullshit and left it all.
Sometimes you have to unplug from nonsense.
I hopped off with this rebellious chip on my shoulder. Ironically, I loved it. I didn’t miss it one bit. I also saw it for what it was during those years. It is a tool. A sharp one at that, but it has it’s limits and it certainly doesn’t define the entity it represents in entirety. I still see the abuse, but I also have clarity on how powerful it can be as a small part of a larger puzzle. It can unite but should never define. Let’s live more and brand less.
HAVE A PHYSICAL OUTLET
Today, I spent most of the morning desperately trying to get the mystery food cleaned up from the playroom and do a load of dog towels in the laundry with both kids losing their ever-loving minds. Demanding, arguing, whining, running, and breaking everything in their path. Totally normal, but I just sat down and started to cry. I’m tired. I’m overwhelmed. I was out of control with a massive to-do list and I wanted to scream, but all the child psych books burned into my brain made me re-think. So I just cried. I felt useless and emotional. We all have moments of weakness. It’s what we choose to do in those moments that determines the rest. Training my body has always been the most effective way for me to train my mind.
Strong body means strong mind.
You know what’s powerful? The hour after that shizzle show when I stood at the squat rack with my favorite jam blaring through my head. I looked at myself in the eyes and went after it. My legs screamed and I wanted to cry all over again. Yet, I felt like a world class Olympian. Same day, same morning. Exercising releases all kinds of power in your body. It’s a biological boost. We are designed for it. The mind and body are not separate. What affects one affects the other. Your goals might not be physical, but that doesn’t matter. A physical outlet enables the stress of the journey to be released.
FIND A MENTOR OR THERAPIST
I seriously don’t understand how this topic remains so taboo. People spend thousands of dollars to have someone help train their bodies until they develop habits. Why not someone to help train our brains? The most powerful computer in the world. When we are broken and sad, we have a tendency to overcompensate for our insecurities. We become a shell of our true potential. I say things like “this is who I am and if you don’t like it, tough.” We make excuses for our weaknesses. It’s human nature because we need to survive and function. We grow cold, hard, and intolerant. A mentor or therapist can be a safe place. They let us sort our broken pieces and help us look back and see what was truly in our control and what wasn’t. They help us heal and then kick our butts to press forward. It’s hard. So is lifting weights.
HAVE BOLD FAITH
I’m a follower of Jesus. I can feel some of you tense as I type the words. I’m from the Baptist Bible Belt, so I can understand why. I spent much of my childhood trapped in the throws of religion. The kind of crazy that has you crawling to an alter with all your other heathen, trouble-making little 7 year old friends every single Sunday out of guilt. I’m pretty sure I “gave my heart” to Jesus so many times as a pre-teen that he finally just told some archangel to hire an intern to accept it. In all seriousness though, it actually had the reverse effect. I got tired of trying to be perfect and I moved on. I’m not talking about dealing drugs or opening a brothel, but I gave up on the rigid politics of it all.
Make it personal
I was still a top performer and a rigid rule follower, so take that Religion! When I say “have faith”, I am talking about the kind of PERSONAL spiritual experience that makes you embrace yourself, your weaknesses and your strengths. It makes you bold and centered. Every religious troll I know is about to throw stones and stop reading, but guess what? We don’t all fit into the same box, folks. Find a faith so deep that you let go of control. Allow yourself to dream the seemingly impossible without needing to have every little detail figured out, immediately. Faith is about love and humanity, not judgment and shame. Don’t talk to me about your rules and your exclusion. Talk to me about your hope and passion.
Faith is a gift.
Faith isn’t a weapon based on good behavior. It’s also not a guarantee that you start pooping rainbows and unicorn glitter, much to my daughter’s chagrin. It’s a gift that makes us stronger. Probably the gift that keeps me manipulating my failures into lessons with passion. The gift that encourages me to love those I want to throat punch. Just chew on it.
I believe in you. If you get nothing else from my own personal lessons, I hope you are at least inspired to go find your own. Find out what makes you tick. What lifts you up on the backside of the mountain? Share it with me. Share it with others. Be the light in the shadows. If you want to watch me forced into practicing what I preach, and possibly eat my words a time or two, follow us on our adventure this summer. You guessed it. We are climbing a real mountain.