Yes, I know. The analogy has been used countless of times. But as usual, the devil is in the details…
You see, climbing a mountain is very much like any other big goal – except for one difference: If you give up halfway towards your goal, you ain’t done yet. You can’t go lie down or drink it all away. You have to get off the mountain first.
But I digress…
Just for a moment, instead of whatever your goals may be, picture yourself climbing a mountain:
Firstly, you will need to prepare yourself – physically, mentally, and in terms of equipment and tools that you may need for the task at hand. You need to be fully prepared and equipped in order to have any chance of success.
Next, besides deciding which mountain you want to climb, you will have to decide on the general route you will follow. This will be determined by the shape of the mountain, the climbing conditions, your personal capabilities, your equipment, and whether you want to take the easier route or not.
Then comes the part where you have to start looking at the obstacles (or challenges) in more detail. You have to map out a do-able progression of intermediate aims – which, when achieved in combination, will complete your goal.
It will most likely be a matter of “this way for a while, until we get there, and then that way until we get there”, etc.
Just like with any other goal, the challenges differ from one stage to the next. In some cases the first part is the hardest, but in other cases it may be the middle or last part that is the hardest. In the case of mountaineering, the last part is usually the hardest – partly due to the oxygen wearing thin, and partly due to the continued physical exertion taking its toll.
Note: Depending on the layout and where you start, you may even have to – at first – go in a direction that will take you off course, but it may need to be completed to bring you to a place from where you can get back on course. And there will in all probability be several instances where you will have to move sideways in order to get to a point from where you can access the next foothold.
Once you get going, there is ONE MAJOR thing to be learned from climbing a mountain:
You Absolutely, Absolutely HAVE to Focus on the NEXT FOOTHOLD.
Nothing else. Once you have achieved the next foothold, you can worry about the next one. Because just like with any other goal, if you don’t get your foothold in the next step, you will either be right back where you came from, or you won’t be able to continue.
Yes, the mountaineer looks ahead from time to time – but when he (or she) MOVES, ALL of the focus is on moving to the next foothold.
And THAT is the way you achieve any great goal – one step at a time. because if you fail at any one step, you may be back to square one. For most people, that kind of setback is enough to make them quit.
As you draw closer to the summit…
The closer you get to your goal – the summit, in this case – the more careful you need to be. You may feel you are in the “home stretch” on the track, but at this point there is a lot that can be lost. The closer you are to the top, the further you can fall.
Don’t relax your focus during any step – not until you get to the top. Yes, once you are in any secure position, you can slow down for a moment, catch your breath, and re-assess your route and progress. But when you move, focus.
If you do, success becomes almost inevitable.
In most respects, climbing a mountain has a lot in common with setting and achieving bigger goals. Sometimes it all goes according to plan, and sometimes there are factors outside your control that force you to postpone your attempt. But if you just keep working towards the next foothold every time, it will maximize your chances of success.
Fortunately, though, there is one respect in which goal setting and mountaineering differ completely:
Once you completed your goal, you don’t have to scale down the side of the mountain again. You can just use it as a stepping stone towards your next goal.