Expat Life

If you don’t make it to the top- and what I learn’t from that

What a view! Last April, I climbed up to 3.668 meters on Mount Kinabalu – the highest mountain in South East Asia. It was the highest mountain I’ve ever climbed . The last kilometre I climbed in in the dark, at 3am, with only a headlight and the light of the full moon lighting the way. It was both exhilarating and terrifying .


Water bottles and limiting beliefs

Your backpack gets lighter on your way to the top- as you finish the water bottles you brought one by one. But your load also gets lighter because of the limiting beliefs you shed along the way:
“You’re never gonna make it to the first hut” – but I did,
“You’re too scared to go out in the dark” – but I did,
“You will get altitude sickness and have to get carried off the mountain”- but that didn’t happen.

But I failed to make it to the top

And yet, my ego doesn’t like writing this post. Because I didn’t make it all the way to the top. Because I stopped at the last checkpoint, exhausted and with the knowledge I still needed to make it all the way down on the same day.

I am used to reaching my goals, delivering on promises. I do what it takes, even if it costs me.

And now I wouldn’t make it to the top, while being nearly there?

The thoughts were tumbling through my head. I “should” have trained more. I “could” have pushed through. “You didn’t make it, you’re a failure,” what will people think?

On the way down. The way up was in the dark.

The why matters and yet it doesn’t

In coaching, we don’t like the why question very much. Why did that happen? The why often makes people defensive, and they know the answer.
I know the reason why I didn’t make it. I didn’t prioritise this climb- let daily life get in the way of this big goal. Didn’t train enough- as simple as that.

Fear and courage

And yet there was also something else. Something deeper. Something that I didn’t acknowledge until after the climb.

Deep down I was afraid. Afraid of failing. Fear was the reason why I unconsciously sabotaged myself.

It was ironic really. I had signed up for this climb not just to motivate myself to get fit, but also as part of my year of love and courage. For 2018, I decided I do not want to let my life be run by automatic fear responses, but to make decisions based on love and courage. Grow more as a person so I can grow further as a coach.

How could I not have realised that stepping out of your comfort zone by climbing a mountain would bring fear and sabotaging thoughts? It was so clear in hindsight.

My 3 Lessons

1- Set yourself up for success

The first lesson that I gained a deeper insight in, is the importance of setting yourself up for success. If you want to achieve a goal, set yourself up for success. Plan time for your goals in your diary and honour them. Surround yourself with people who have done this before you and take their advice. Get a coach, a mentor, accountability partner or a team mate.


2- Acknowledge your fears

In order to grow and move past your fears, you will have to acknowledge them. With that, I simply mean noticing these fears, perhaps writing them down. What are these fears telling you? Do you want to believe them? Do you know that they are trying to protect you from running risks, from failing, but also standing in the way of achieving what you want?

Even though I have a coach (practice what you preach, as a coach I believe in the power of being coached), I didn’t bring up my struggle to adequately prepare for this trip, I didn’t even mention the mountain really. In the end, you will have to do the work of facing your fears yourself- others can point you in the right direction, but no one can do it for you.

Look your fears in the eye, thank them and continue your journey. Choose courage over fear. Or as the popular Facebook quote goes: Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway.

The view from the check point was impressive


3- Treat yourself with kindness

Up there on the mountain, the sun rose and I made myself a promise. I promised myself that I wouldn’t be angry at myself for not making it to the top. I promised myself that I wouldn’t beat myself up over it.

Instead, I promised myself that I would remember the proud feeling that I made it this far. I would remember the incredible views. When I went down I could hardly believe I had managed to get up there.

I decided to treat myself with compassion. I chose to see my courage- as others did. Because most people never try to climb mountains.

My next journey

I’m glad I tried to climb. We often say travel is about the journey, not the destination, but do we mean it?

I enjoyed the journey- hard as it was. And of course, I’ll try again next year 😉

Wanna come along?

A porter on Kinabalu- we each carry our own load to the top- do not compare yourself but continue your own journey.
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