The June edition of National Geographic Magazine features an article on Mount Everest—it is very disturbing reading. In short, the insatiable demand of the world’s adventurous to “…stand on top of the world” is destroying the rather fragile eco-system where the earth and sky meet. But that’s not the most disturbing part.
There are bodies, quite a number of them, just lying where the individuals fell, now frozen to the mountain. The Kingdom of Nepal does not have the ways or means to remove the dead climbers, and the people who are climbing the mountain are there for just one purpose – to reach the summit. Packing out the body of a fellow climber is not on the agenda.
What makes this sad is that the climbers who die on Mount Everest probably didn’t have to die. The majority of them become disabled and distressed not because of the danger of the climb itself, but because they have not prepared for the stresses of the activity. According to the article, people are not dying because of mountaineering accidents (falling into a crevasse, etc.) but because they tackle the tallest mountain in the world without adequate preparation. They haven’t trained at high altitudes; they don’t know what dehydration at 30,000 feet feels like; they haven’t prepared for the cold, the dark, or the physical exertion. And, it kills them.
I’m not going to climb Mount Everest (though I did climb Mt. Sinai and feel pretty chuffed about that) but the lesson is still valid. If I want to do anything significant, I have to plan for success. In taking up running last January, I would have been incredibly foolish to get up off my couch where I’d lived for the past seventeen years and enter an ultra marathon (the equivalent of deciding to climb Mount Everest without adequate preparation). I would have died. No, actually, I would have quit before finishing – I have no desire to die in the effort to get fit and healthy.
So it is with any goal we have. There is no substitute for careful preparation, purposeful planning, and supportive people. Whatever your goal is – quitting smoking, getting fit, losing weight, running a marathon, climbing Mount Everest – success is really only possible when we give up the idea that “…this will be easy,” and plan to work hard; to take advantage of every single scrap of support we can find in the effort to make a lifestyle change, and to make that change a permanent one.
There is no greater satisfaction than the internal euphoria of achieving a goal that required every ounce of will, determination, and grit. Especially the fortitude we didn’t know we had.
And therein lies the “secret” to everything. There is no elevator to success. Everyone has to take the stairs. Sometimes lack of preparation means we fail. Sometimes, taking a shortcut can have a much more devastating consequence. If you have a goal – something you want to accomplish – plan to take advantage of every scrap of support you can find, and decide ahead of time that there’s no substitute for doing the hard stuff, whether physical, mental, or emotional. The “secret” of success will be yours. What do you want to accomplish?
Dr. Susannah-Joy Schuilenberg is a Canadian psychologist traveling the world on a busman’s holiday. Bossy from birth, compassionate by choice, and funny by accident, Dr. Susannah writes about anything that catches her attention. Visit: www.soorcenter.com or follow her on Twitter: @drsusannah