Geography Time: Mount Everest, the world’s tallest Mountain, has a peak reaching 29,029 feet; that is approximately twenty-nine empire state buildings, of pure rock, earth and snow. I can only imagine the site of Mount Everest must be humbling and majestic all at the same time. When I think about it, I am amazed by the forces of nature and equally amazed when I remember that people have actually attempted to climb the world’s tallest mountain– and succeeded.
I was recently introduced to the work of Alison Levine, a speaker, adventurer, and member of the Seven Summits club– she has climbed the highest mountain on every continent– including but not limited to Mount Everest. I listened to her speak about the training and the struggles she went through in order to ultimately feel the triumph of reaching the peak of each mountain. It impressed me to see that such a lovely women had taken on the task of conquering these huge mountains, but what impressed me the most was the process it took. I had always assumed that if you wanted to climb a mountain, you got in shape, bought some equipment and went on your way praying for good weather– well that’s only the beginning. Alison explained that on the way up the mountain there are check points– places where climbers stop along the way to recharge, rest and stock up on food and equipment before the climb can continue. If the next check point is not reached in time the next day, then the climbers have to climb down the mountain to the previous check point in order to rest and recharge again. This may seem like a hassle, but with out these check points the climbers would not be able to make it to the top or in extreme cases, off the mountain alive. What I always thought was a straight shot up the mountain, is actually a full on adventure of ups and downs, backs and forwards, all in pursuit of the ultimate goal– a panoramic view from the top.
Alison continues to explain how climbing mountains is similar to how we must approach life. I couldn’t agree more. When I reflect on Alison’s story, there are a couple of life lessons that stand out too me. Initially, in life, just like in mountain climbing, sometime it is necessary to slow down and go back to “check points” before we can move forward. The check points of life are different for every person–perhaps it means going back to school, moving back in with parents, returning to singleness after a committed relationship, or in my case, leaving NYC to return to Oklahoma. What ever your check point maybe, it is bound to come with a little bit of discomfort. It’s easy to think, “Why am I moving BACKWARDS? I’m supposed to be headed towards the top!” Detours along the journey aren’t always easy to understand, but if we can teach ourselves to shift our perspective to the big picture it’s simple to see that these “setbacks” are actually the very things that make it possible for us to climb the rest of the mountain safely, with strength, preparation and renewed energy. Thanks too life’s check points, we are able to grow up, get the education we need, find ourselves or whatever it may be that we need in order to have the type of success we hope for in any given area of life.
The second thing Alison’s story teaches us is that triumph takes planning. I’m fairly certain that Alison didn’t just wake up one morning and say, “I think I’m gonna climb the world’s tallest mountain today.” Her triumphs started with a vision of what the top would look like and then she worked steadily towards it for years until she was prepared to begin her climb up the mountains. As twenty-somethings, we all have ideas of what we want to be when we “grow up”. We know we want happy families, happy selves, awesome careers and many of us have big dreams that we hope will become a reality. We each have an idea of the legacies we want to leave and the impact we want to make on our world. I love thinking about all the goals and dreams I have for myself, the future seems so exciting! Unfortunately, this excitement is often met with a sense of anxiety about when and how it’s all going to happen. I often struggle with not feeling like I’ve done enough for my age and I get so frustrated by the fact that I don’t understand when and how my dreams are going to poof into reality.
Well Alison’s story has helped me learn that they aren’t! Dreams do not just “poof”– they are created; one step, lesson, and small victory at a time. We don’t just wake up, ten years down the road with the lives we have imagined, we start where we are and take steps towards the life we want to have in the future.
Legacies are not created over night, they are fine-tuned and gradually achieved through vision, hard work and persistence. Then, and only then, are we able to get to where it is we aspire to be and savor the beautiful view from the top.
This blog is about the journey… to get to our dreams. Those two phrases can not be separated. It’s not just about the journey, the lessons and the struggle we have to endure as twenty-first century twenty-somethings, and it’s certainly not just about crazy pipe-dreams that we wish for but don’t pursue. It’s about the adventures we takes while getting there! It is my goal to equip myself and you all for the journey that will LEAD us to our dreams. This is a blog for those of us who have our heads in clouds and feet firmly placed on the ground. With a vision and hard work we can and will achieve the lives we have dreamed of! The first step in knowing how to make our dreams happen is knowing what they are. So the month of May is all about vision. This month you will find advice about how to create the vision of what you want your life to be, practical steps to make it happen and an interview with one fabulous young women who with hard work and passion has made her dreams reality.
In my moments of overwhelm my Mom asks me a ridiculous question: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” So it is with life and climbing mountains: How do we get to our dreams (or the top of Mount Everest for that matter)? One choice, one step and one day at a time. Remember to slow down and return to check points if needed, and then proceed back up the mountain– the view is so worth it.
PS: This is simply my summary of the inspiring stories Alison tells. Check out her website to find out more about her speaking, mountain climbing and upcoming book.