From Base Camp to Victory: 5 Strategies for Conquering Your Personal Mountain

With the arrival of a new year, we tend to pause and reflect on the past year-what did we do well, and how do we capitalize on these successes? Where did we fall short, and what steps can we take so we can grow from these disappointments? These periods of personal reflection are critical to personal growth and the development of self-awareness. They ought to be incorporated into the fabric of the rest of the year, and not just limited to New Year’s. Think about this: Life is like climbing up a mountain. We set a goal, or there’s a mission we need to accomplish, and we begin the journey, placing one foot in front of the other, keeping our eyes glued to the peak of the beast we traverse. 

Throughout the course of a lifetime, a person will scale multiple mountainous terrains, hopefully completing most of these attempts. But did you ever consider what goes into ensuring that these hikes end in a successful arrival at the summit? As we enter 2024, each of us is embarking on a new “mountain”. There are projects to be completed; graduation requirements to be met; new friendships to be established; health challenges to be addressed and overcome; complicated dance and musical pieces to be perfected…. each “alp” enticing us to dig deep and climb with all of our might. Standing at the base of this monolith, the task ahead feels daunting, and sometimes the self-doubt can overshadow the excitement that brought you here to begin with.

So, my fellow trailblazer, if you are looking for some advice about tackling this next mountainous terrain, read on, and place in your pack whatever tools of wisdom you will need to help you reach your personal summit.

Step one: Reflect on your mindset. 

What is your goal? It is critical to be clear about what it is you are trying to achieve before you embark. What does a successful climb look like to you, and is this definition based on your personal opinion and experience or that of friends, family members, or teachers?

How are you feeling about this goal? Listen to your heart and pay attention to what it is telling you. If you’re nervous, what has you concerned? If you’re excited, what are you looking forward to about this journey? If you’re stressed, what is causing the stress and how can you address these sources of discomfort? Can you live with these emotions, or do you need to tweak your course or alter it altogether?

Who are you doing this for? Are you doing it for yourself? Maybe the successful completion of this venture will finally prove to you all that you are capable of. Maybe it will reflect your own personal strength and resilience. Maybe you’re just doing it for fun. If you are doing this for someone else, be clear as to what is motivating you, and make sure you are not sacrificing yourself to please others. Maybe you are engaged in this journey to help a sick friend or loved one. Maybe you are doing this for a social or community cause. 

Step two: Do you have what you need to meet with success? 

Water bottle? Check. Change of clothes? Check. Jacket or coat? Check. Change of socks and boots? Check. Extra food? Check. First Aid kit and medication? Check. Tarp and tent? Check. Just as you would not begin a major hike without proper equipment, you will not begin your next ascent without checking to make sure you are equipped to meet with success. Your supplies may be related to a school project-pens, pencils, erasers, markers, tape, glue, paper, computer, stick pins, labels….Alternatively, you may be training for a major sporting event. You may need special footwear, water bottles, specific clothing, hats, sunscreen, medication or a first aid kit, a timing device, or nutritional supplements. Or perhaps you have decided to prioritize your personal wellbeing so you might need a journal, a meditative app, a nutritional plan and appropriate foods, timers, or time to put things into practice. Or maybe you have challenged yourself to overcome a personal obstacle-maybe it’s your first sleepover, so bring something familiar and comforting like a teddy bear, blanket, snuggly pj’s, or a picture of a family member.

Step three: Form a team. 

When you are devising your plans to climb, you need to create a team comprised of individuals who have your back. You might need doctors, nurses, specialists, therapists, teachers, academic coaches, parents, guardians, friends, other family members, role models, or mentors to comprise your team. From the outset, be clear as to what you need from them. They need to be trustworthy-you have to be able to rely on them, particularly during the more treacherous parts of your mission. Will they be there for you when you need them the most? They have to be honest-you need to know they will be transparent with you and tell you like it is, even during those times when you won’t want to hear the truth. They need to understand who you are-too often we recruit people to join our team, but their vision of what should be does not always coincide with what we envision for ourselves. They may have a misguided version of who you are which can cloud their judgment and undermine your objectives. Be sure everyone on your team is on the same page and understands you and the purpose of your climb.  

Step four: Be prepared for challenges. 

No climb takes place without challenges. Extreme weather, rugged terrain, loose gravel, landslides, rolling boulders, and wind are but a few of the examples mountain climbers may confront as they traverse the side of a mountain. Be aware of these potential stumbling blocks ahead of time and think things through before you launch. What might go wrong? Can you avoid these pitfalls? If so, how? If they are unavoidable, how will you successfully address them so as to keep you on target and able to reach your goal? Can you handle these potential obstacles alone, or do you need to enlist in the help of your teammates? Who on your team is the right resource? Do you need extra supplies? Where will you get them and how will you carry them until they are needed? Finally, cool heads must prevail in the face of adversity. Train your mind to remain calm by practicing mindfulness, meditation, or grounding exercises as these exercises discipline your brain to be in the moment and to remain relaxed. A calm mind is the key to a successful climb.

Step five: Reflect. 

When we are engaged in our journeys, we can experience tunnel vision with our eyes squarely on reaching the summit. It is very easy to blaze past the beautiful scenery as we ascend the mountain. Flowers, beautiful rock formations, icicles, wildlife, all pass by in a flurry because we are so locked into reaching our goal. It’s critical to stop, look around, and take in the scene surrounding us. Take your pulse-are you on track? How are you feeling? What are you proud of? What could be going better, and what tweaks can you make to better position yourself? I would encourage you to remember to look behind you periodically. In our haste to get up the hill, we forget to look down and acknowledge how far we have come. Don’t forget the trials and tribulations you experienced to get to this point. Remember the blood, sweat, and tears it has taken to get you to this elevation. Reflect on the lessons you have learned along the way, and use them, don’t let them use you.The new year is here, and we are embarking on new mountain ranges. There will be smaller hills and pinnacles that initially seem insurmountable. But here’s the thing: You can do this. Be deliberate with the choices you make and the people you choose to accompany you along the way. No one goes it alone on these ventures-you will always have someone rooting for you. Choose wisely when it comes to loading your bag-pack lightly, and only take that which you need. By being proactive and mindful, you are bound to reach your goals, and no mountain will be too high for you to climb!