I never held a life-long ambition to climb Mount Everest, nor was I particularly sporty. Yet somehow, my enjoyment of hiking led to bigger and bigger mountain hikes, which eventually led to me trudging my way into Everest Base Camp – with the intention to climb to the summit!
It seemed like a good idea a year earlier when I announced this goal. But now I couldn’t help thinking… What on earth was I doing? What was I thinking? Everest is not a game – hundreds of people have lost their lives here! Don’t get me wrong, I was prepared with many other climbs and thousands of hours of training under my belt, but still my mind kept going to, “this is different, this is Everest!”
So what got me through?
Although it’s a cliche, it was literally one step at a time. Having set the goal and planned the expedition, I decided to simply focus on the objective for each step in the process. The necessary acclimatization up and down the mountain took weeks, leaving a lot of time for thinking. Yet somehow, I kept control of my thoughts.
On summit day, I headed off into darkness at 9:30 at night, taking only a few steps at a time before needing to rest and recover my breathing. After several hours, I was convinced there was no chance I would get to the top as I was moving too slowly. My plan was to turn-around before 12pm to make sure I’d have time to get back to camp 4 in daylight. But instead, I decided to convince myself I would keep going until that time – just to see how far I could get. Step by step I trudged upwards. To my surprise, before 8am, I found myself standing on top of the world.
This experience showed me the power of incremental but consistent action and also the benefits of separating ‘planning’ from ‘doing’. When something gets tough, it’s not the time to re-evaluate the plan, it’s the time to implement the plan!
And then just ‘keep going until’ you either reach your goal or a critical warning signal that tells you to stop and change direction.
Of course there’s more to this story, but this is an important lesson I took away from this adventure and chapter of my life.