Sometime in August, my husband and I are going to go to Central Oregon with the intention of climbing South Sister, a dormant volcano in the Cascade Mountains which rises up to 10,363 feet / 3,158 meters. The views on top are amazing and can stretch for hundreds of miles, with other snowcapped peaks dotting the horizon. A very worthy hike indeed. This also isn't a technical climb... it's 11 miles round-trip and almost 5,000 feet elevation gain on a hiking trail with no ropes or crampons required. It's definitely doable.
But I have to confess.
I'm completely and utterly terrified.
I hike fairly regularly, and summited Mt. St. Helens over 15 years ago which was a tough hike (even though I climbed that one when I was in the worst shape of my life), but I am definitely not the kind of person that you would think of as a mountain climber. No, more like a moderate exerciser who enjoys the outdoors, but isn't a super jock. In high school, I wasn't an athlete, but now I would classify myself as active, without being an athlete.
What I am now staring in the eye is what seems like an insurmountable challenge that will test my very moral fiber.
Can I, from the sheer force of will, push myself up a 10,000 foot mountain? Or will I hide from it and wish I did?
We all have 'bucket lists' and hiking South Sister is on mine. It's something I've always wanted to do, know it's going to be the toughest thing I've ever done, and that there's a possibility that I will fail miserably doing it. Or, I steel my mind, focus on putting one foot in front of another, and take it one step at a time like the 'little engine that could.' Mental toughness, indeed.
Within the next month, I'll have four choices:
1) Climb it
2) Don't climb it, but stay in the base camp and enjoy the view anyway, but wish I was climbing it (while my husband makes the summit)
3) Start to climb it, realize I can't do it, and quit
4) Don't even go to the area and still wish I did climb it
Sort of looks like I really want to climb this monstrosity, huh? What do you think is going to happen? Will I make it?
This story has a lot of applications and parallels into our work lives. There's always that one thing which stands as a huge challenge in either our job or our career. We are well aware of where the path goes in order to overcome that obstacle... and ultimately, it begins within by making that decision to take it on.
But can we find the courage to put our feet down that trail to start that journey?
Are we ready to push ourselves to the very limit?
Will the outcome outweigh the difficulty in getting there?
Can I say I am the same person if I succeed, or will this change me in a wonderful, fundamental way for confronting this 10,000 foot mountain?
Right now, this hike seems like a 20,000 foot / 6,096 meter challenge in my mind. But one of the biggest truths that I have found in life is that when you are scared of something (truly terrified), it's easy to let the fear get bigger than it really needs to be. Your best opportunity to overcome that obstacle is to not run away from it; but instead, start running towards it. The closer you get to that very thing that scares you most, the smaller it gets.
Once you conquer it, you are stronger. Facing those fears and conquering those insurmountable challenges does push you to new levels. But what I've found is that you have to psychologically commit to saying, "I will not hide from this, and instead, take it on, and learn things about myself when I am experiencing the most hardship."
Ultimately, on the other end, we discover resilience, inner strength, and faith in ourselves.
So, are you hiding from your 10,000 foot mountain? Are you ready to tackle that challenge?