I went for a walk in the South Downs, Sussex a few weeks ago. If you haven’t been there they are not the ones shown in the photo. Me, my boyfriend, my sister in law and my puppy. The chalky hills are a contrast to my usual flatland park walking. We left the house, and soon enough, a steep path rose ahead of us.
I knew better than to ask if we were taking that path.
Of course, we were!
It stretched up into the sky; looking like a thoroughly unpleasant ascent.
I sighed an internal sigh and tried not to dwell on the pain, agony, shame and despair that would unfold on this mammoth hike. Then, acceptance, I was in the company of others so I couldn’t back down. Acceptance but I wasn’t looking forward to it, and maybe next weekend I should stay at home.
The sun was shining, my puppy’s tail was wagging, and we’d identified at least three beer stops along the way. What was my problem? I was fixating on that climb; on the small percentage of the walk that would require some real effort.
But then, we arrived at the foot of the long march to pain and death. Actually, from this viewpoint, it looked less like a mountain and more like a hill. A brisk, ten-minute, red-faced march was all it was. Jeez, what was all the fuss about? It was just a visual illusion.
And at the top? A sumptuous green pasture with vista views on all sides.
Thank god I hadn’t been on my own. I might have given up before I even got to the foot of the hill. Then, no sunshine, no vista, no adventure, no fresh country air, no beer; just one great sense of failure.
You can’t get to the views without putting your first foot out towards the mountain path.
Leaving hiking aside, I started thinking about other things that seemed impossible just a few years ago and how much of the fear factors were the business equivalent of a visual illusion.
Firstly, what’s your vista? Now I’m not talking about a small achievement here. I’m talking a big f-off, vista size dream that you have. I’m talking about the journey you make on your own up to the heights.
“80% of Success is Showing up,” says Woody Allen.
What’s your version of showing up? Of the party? I know with writing the hardest part is always the first draft — that process of going from a blank canvas to something that resembled a story.
How do I get my feet on the road? I have to turn off any of my internal voices that are trying to block my way. I say internal, but they are also made up of a whole host of influences from society, family, friends who would much rather you didn’t face the danger and just stayed put.
That attitude will keep the rain off, but it will never get you to the top of your game. I am talking your game too, rather than world domination.
Here are a few nagging voices to ward off when setting out on a new journey of accomplishment.
1. It’s Too Hard
I used to hear this a lot from an old client. I’d remind her of the small value of easy. Take a walk to the end of your block if you want easy, but if you genuinely want to do something worthwhile, the only way is through difficulty.
Amazing things are hard, but they’re not too hard if they are a goal.
2. I don’t Know Which Way To Go
So? Who does? There’s a path in front of you; you could start walking and see where it takes you. The only wrong way at the starting point is no way. That is your 100% guaranteed way never to get anywhere, and if you’ve read this far down, you are not that person.
3. I Need Someone to Give Me Permission
Tough. Permit yourself. Even if you found someone who was as invested in your success as you are, the act of telling them your goal and getting them onboard sounds so time-consuming that you could have been halfway up to your vista by now.
Time waits for no human and casting around for permission is a big waster.
I’ve been here. I really have. I spent 12 months last year waiting around for testimonials and pats on the head and confirmation from other people of what I should know myself; that I’m a great writer.
It’s fine to go through this process, but ultimately you need to start allowing yourself to triumph. At some stage, especially as you get better, these people might not be around.
4. I Might Get Lost
You will get lost. Just accept that and sometimes you’ll find a better path or a better connection. Your mind will be open to discovery, and you’ll reach peaks that no-one else has heard of.
Worst case scenario and the sun is coming down; you can always turn around and set off again the next day. You’ll be stronger and more mountain savvy.
5. I Might Get Lost and Need a Mountain Rescue and Live My Life In Shame Forever After
You might need mountain rescue, but that’s what they are there for you and the only time they’ll be angry is if you’ve put their lives in danger through your negligence/ignorance.
Mountain Rescue translates into time, effort or money for individuals stuck between their dreams and success. If you request and use these resources respectfully, then mountain rescue might even enjoy the process.
It’s nice to help people out when you can. (Not when you’re struggling to keep the bailiff at bay — that’s a bad time to ask someone for help — and that’s another story)
6. I Might Fail
You might, so what? Then you start again. There’s nothing more empowering than controlling your reaction to a perceived ‘failure.
The more you fail, the better you become at sweeping up the lessons and growing stronger. To sit at the bottom of the mountain, worrying about what might go wrong is the biggest failure of all.
7. My Mother Told Me Not To
Your mother (or whoever) wants the best for you. They really do. But their version of the best you aligns with their version of themselves. Their best version of you doesn’t always include your dreams.
Your mother doesn’t want to see you fail, to see you frightened, to see you lost or down, but these are the emotions you need to get through to succeed truly.
8. It’s Too Dangerous
A mountain is , yes, but when I hear this talk from people what I’m really hearing is that there is a danger to their pride or ego. Maybe there is, but you’ll be doing yourself a huge favour if you place them aside on your journey upwards.
Ego in particular is the most dangerous monster on the road to your success. It will guide you off on self-serving tangents. Kick these two dangers into the shadows and start your ascent upwards.
It’s terrific news if you are already satisfied with your life and content to stay in your comfort zone, BUT if you want to do more, then you need to start controlling these internal voices, so you don’t allow them to control you.
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