Looking Forward: One Way to Stay Motivated. A Little Panic on a Mountain. 

                 (Quandary Peak)

 What impedes your motivation? I’m sure you can come up with a few responses. For some, it’s fear, time, confidence, or so much more. I often work with people on moving past the impediment of looking back or standing still. What better way to gain confidence and motivate your motivation than taking one step at a time? Well, early this morning in the astounding mountains of Colorado I caught myself in this conundrum on Quandary Peak (14, 265 ft elevation).

Bears, Mountain Lions, Buffalo, Moose, and a few more… these are animals I have ran across in the wilderness. I have had the opportunity to hike, and sometimes run, many tall peaks on technical trails. Sure, from time-to-time during these experiences my adrenaline was spiked, but I have not had true panic during those moments. The last actual panic I endured was in 2007 while skiing. It was the first time back on the slope after breaking my back while skiing in 2006. Since then, I have not had panic. Something changed this morning…

My great friend,Todd, and I met at the Quandary Peak Trailhead at 3:45 am. It was obvious we needed poles and spikes to make this jaunt, as the snow was deep just at the trailhead. We took off and I found the first hour or so very enjoyable as I maintained a decent pace up the mountain. Todd had been up on the mountain backcountry skiing a few weeks prior and pointed out that we would have to go off trail because of the snow. It was fun for the first 20 minutes or so of going straight up. After all, going straight up is a great workout! I then noticed my heart was beating faster then it ought to be. I noticed that as I looked behind me, my headlamp was catching the blowing snow going over the edges. Suddenly, I felt that same feeling I did in 2007-PANIC. This caught me by surprise! Todd is a vey trusted friend and so I kept grounding myself with him. I knew my thoughts were irrational, and thankfully he remained calm. I told him how unfortunate it was to be with his shrink friend who is all of a sudden in a panic. Having realized this, I also began to notice that the panic would come and go and that I actually had control… 

I began to notice that when I was focused on just the next step, my heart was calm and my mind was clear. I immediately felt tranquility and peace, as I normally do while in the mountains.   Still, when the winds would pick up and blowing snow would catch my eye and I would lose my vision causing me to focus on the route behind me. The panic kept wanting me to stop and catch my breath, but when I stopped my heart would only beat faster. It became very clear to me… looking back and standing still completely reversed my motivation. In contrast, as I took one step forward and only looked shortly ahead I was motivated and calm. Making sure I didn’t get  too hung up on the big picture kept me calm, as well. 

So, why do I share this? We are all vulnerable human beings. Sharing our struggles while focusing on how to overcome them helps us and others. Furthermore, I want to highlight the important principles derived today. 

First, motivating motivation is something that needs sustaining. Keeping one foot going forward and not becoming stagnant are indispensable principles. 

Second, stop looking back! Yes, we learn from the past but it doesn’t mean it has to keep catching our eye and creating fear that we will fall back. I believe it is equally important not to allow others to keep our mind in our past- don’t give them power over you!

Third, panic/fear does not need to stop you from anything. Rather, calling it what it is and finding the path forward is key!

I invite you to recognize that it is not who you are that stops your motivation; rather, it is what you are doing and the strategies you are using. Change what you do not who you are!


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