A Mountain is Not Just a Metaphor
Today I wanted to share with you all my thought’s, reason, and hopes on a project I am organising and having recently made a huge commitment on social media it’s now time, I feel, to dig a little deeper into my rationale and what it is I am setting out to achieve.
Four years ago, I did something I never thought I could do, never dreamed I could achieve and what I believed an impossible task and that was to climb the highest mountain in Wales (UK), Snowdon. People climb mountains every day, whether those are physical, spiritual, mental or all three, mountains exist in both the physical and metaphorical world but on this occasion, it was an actual mountain to climb and I was not prepared for what was to come when I came up with the original plan.
Did I train? Yes! 12 months approximately (in between I had a major hernia operation) and it was relentless, physical torture, week in, week out I pounded the hills up and down hardly taking a breath and often collapsing into a heap during and at the end of each session with exhaustion but I loved it. I found myself becoming addicted to the adrenaline and the massive sense of achievement each time I went training and had Snowdon firmly fixed in my sights for a sunny day in the May of 2017.
Despite still being overweight I still felt that I was physically ready and with several pep talks from my mountain guru, Colin Plant, my mind was in great shape for the challenge but what was originally planned for 6 hours soon became a 10-hour expedition up and down to and from the beautiful summit of Mount Snowdon. It was a long and difficult day.
So, what were the lessons learned from this experience?
First of all, and arguably the most important, the summit is only halfway! This was later described to me as “Summit Fever”; the mistakable and overwhelming sense of achievement without acknowledging where you are exactly on the map, the halfway point but because you have reached that dream summit your mind automatically is set to rest mode. How wrong was I? Very.
The second lesson or takeaway I had with this trip was that the journey rather than the destination was where most, if not all my lessons were learned. Preparation training, team effort, and support all gave me the tools I needed to complete the job, without any one of these I could have very easily failed the mission. It’s not always about getting to the top but how much effort and commitment you put in to get there and helping others to do so at the same time gave me a huge sense of achievement.
The hardest of all lessons came way after the task was completed, two years later to be exact and that was the unexpected event of a mental health breakdown. Without going into too many personal details and some issues beyond my control there was one factor that I believe that heavily contributed to the demise of my mental health at that time and that was that once I had reached the end of this ambition there were no more mountains to climb, nothing to do, nothing to plan and into the abyss I went, head first and into the darkest period of my life to date.
When focussed on one single point of success it is difficult to appreciate the journey and the lessons that can be learned when your head is in a fixed position, having that all-or-nothing mindset can be limiting in terms of overall experience but useful with specific goals and jobs to do. In reflection and with this newfound confidence for physical challenges I should have kept the momentum going, planned another challenge straight after, and given myself another impossible mission to accomplish. I may have been able to give myself a positive distraction but would that have really, truthfully helped me to avoid the crash? Was this just a means of putting the inevitable off? I’m not sure but what I am almost certain of is that it would have helped; now is not the time to live in regret and to take action.
Having learned this lesson, I have now planned a new trip with a new team and a bigger mountain to climb, Ben Nevis in Scotland, the UK’s highest. Learning from last time the things that motivate me into action are the threat of failure, I don’t like it and I will do anything to avoid it, and the importance of having the right people with you on the journey, from the ground up. Ability is everything but the right attitude and motivation are essential and having people around you to share the road is so important, this is a shared journey of ours, both in life and on the mountain. The message here is all about the journey and not the destination, take a breath and pause and look around you at the beauty of nature, the quiet moments in life where you can spend precious time in reflection and true mindful spirit. Dogged determination has a consequence, if you fix your eye on the prize you miss how you go there and you essentially miss an opportunity to learn more about yourself and what you are capable of.
I have learned that despite my current physical challenges I am unstoppable once my mindset is determined and fixed and hindsight has taught me that it is all about the road; the summit is tiny and can only be viewed for a fleeting moment before you have to return. Take it in, enjoy it and set yourself down the path a little further. This might be the story of my adventure but now it is time to make your own.