My husband and I enjoy watching documentaries of people pushing their limits, whether it is a rock climber who scales up El Capitan (elevation 3,000 feet of sheer rock granite) in Yosemite National Park with no support ropes, a hiker summiting Mt. Everest (elevation 29,032 feet) without supplemental oxygen, ultrarunners who complete days-long races covering hundreds of miles, or hikers who spend literally months of their lives walking the Pacific Crest Trail or the Appalachian Trail.
If given the chance to talk to these people, I would ask, “Why would anyone want to put themselves through that? Is it worth the blood, sweat, tears, and risk involved?” Each of these people would answer, “Hell yeah, it’s worth it. That’s what makes life worth living and gives meaning to the one life I have! If I don’t push my limits and get out of my comfort zone, I am not living, I am merely existing.”
In theory, I love the idea of not just existing and of living my life to the fullest. During the last chapter of my life, I want to look back and be proud of the times I stepped out into the unknown and challenged myself with something hard.
But I am not some ultra-athlete freak of nature, so now what? And who has the extra time and money to do these things?
How do we transfer this go-for-the-gold mentality to the mere mortals of the world—the other 99 percent of humanity? What scaled-down version of an Everest-type goal do you have that you haven’t yet taken that first step? Something that one day you can look back on and say, “I can’t believe I did that!”
In other words, what is your personal Everest?
I see three different types of Everests in our lives:
1. The Physical Everest—such as:
>> Completing a couch to 5K
>> Running a marathon
>> Organizing those cabinets in your house
>> Restoring that truck in your shop
>> Hiking the Appalachian Trail
>> Buying that VW van and traveling the backroads
2. The Mental Everest—such as:
>> Learning a new language
>> Finishing your college degree
>> Learning to play a new instrument
>> Taking up sewing
>> Writing that article for Elephant Journal
3. The Emotional Everest—such as:
>> Mending a broken relationship by saying I’m sorry
>> Forgiving a loved one who has wronged you
>> Having a tough but necessary conversation with someone
“One life. Just one. Why aren’t we running like we are on fire towards our wildest dreams?” ~ Unknown
So why, for some of us, is there no urgency to reach our goals and to do things that we have on our bucket list? To push ourselves to be the best version of humans we can be? What holds us back? We think we have time, that we will do it “someday.” If we are not intentional about this pursuit, the “someday” will never come. And I will argue that you will never be too old to summit a personal Everest—just keep your goals reasonable.
I believe one obstacle we encounter is that we humans are addicted to comfort. When we get uncomfortable, whether it is physical discomfort or the discomfort of trying something new for the first time, we retreat back to the known and the safety that brings. Having a tough conversation with a loved one is uncomfortable but could be life-changing. But we grow when we get out of our comfort zones. We can find meaning in stepping out into the unknown and seeing what we are capable of in this one life we are given. We must learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Embrace the struggle this brings.
“You never change your life until you step out of your comfort zone; change begins at the end of your comfort zone.” ~ Roy T. Bennett
Another obstacle is a fear of failure. “What if it doesn’t work out the way I want?” “What if I am bad at it?” Well, then be bad at it at first. You will get better. If we reframed this fear as “the only way I fail is if I do not try at all,” then our whole perspective changes. What if it turns out way better than we could have ever imagined? All we need to do is to take that first step. Do not let excuses get in the way.
“In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take, relationships we were afraid to have and the decisions we waited too long to make.” ~ Lewis Carroll
Will it be hard? Most likely, but there is meaning in the hard. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it and it would become meaningless. There is truth found in doing something hard. You can’t fake your way through it. And you know what else is hard? Living with the regret of never pursuing your Everest. Choose your hard.
My challenge for you is to identify your Everest and pursue it with everything you have. Summit your personal Everest. The view at the top will be glorious.