Choose your peaks

In the last post, we talked about hidden barriers that can keep us from dreaming big in the first place and can potentially trigger the upper limit problem, when we start seeing results. Have you identified any of these barriers within yourself? For me, it was difficult to answer these questions. 

One thing that I did find out is that I subconsciously followed the path of my father (an Engineer and Manager) instead of choosing my own peaks.

I am not saying that simply following the path that has been laid out for you by your environment is a bad thing, indeed you can live a happy and fulfilled life. Let’s return to Adam Ondra: his parent were climbers and he learned from the age of six. Climbing is the passion of his life.

From Daydream to Author of Your Life

However, many of us daydream about achieving something big or meaningful but never really get it done. Life just happens and schwuppsdiwupps (an awesome German term for ‘all of a sudden’) another year has passed and the only thing that has happened is that we have become one year older. The result? We feel awful, especially comparing our progress with the progress of others or the progress that we wish we had made ourselves.

The good news is: it doesn’t have to be this way. Do you, at this very moment, feel the inner calling to do something that you desire? Maybe something different and possibly greater than what your parents did? Then listen to that inner voice and choose your own peaks. 

In simplified scientific terms (you know I like to put science in simple terms): Transforming from doing what is expected from you to what you want to do is called going from a ‘socialized’ to a ‘self-authoring’ mindset (Kegan & Lahey, 2009).

What are your benefits if you achieve a self-authored mindset?

  • You stop conforming yourself to all rules of your community, good or bad
  • You lead your life with your rules, make your own choices
  • You create your unique, awesome identity and start following your inner compass
  • You become more self-reliant
  • Because of that, you are a better problem solver 
  • You take responsibility for the outcome

In a nutshell: with a self-authoring mindset, you decide what is right for you instead of basing it on everybody else’s expectations.

Keagan and Lahey point out that only 35% of the population reaches this stage of development. If you are not there yet, it’s not too late, and I would be happy to support you throughout that process.  For me, changing from doing what was expected of me to doing what I think was right was HUGE in terms of self-confidence, life satisfaction, and personal growth. Now, I look at life differently: I choose to connect to the people that I want, I have created attractive alternatives for my career, I can handle contradicting wishes of my four different bosses, I can balance my priorities. The list of improvements in quality of life goes on.

Reflection 1: On a scale from 1-10 how ready are you to take responsibility and choose your own peaks? Pick a number and write down in your journal where you are and how it looks like where you are. At which number would you like to be and how would it look like?

Choose Your Peaks

Now that the benefits of choosing your own peaks are clear, let’s talk about actually choosing them. When I say peaks, I am talking about peak experiences that make a difference in your life. Peaks are experiences that if you look back 20 years from now that you will still remember.

Scaling these peaks is typically not easy but requires a strong WHY, dedication, and hard work. For me, one of these peaks has literally been climbing what is likely to be the world’s most famous rock climb: The Nose on the 1’000m Granit Monolith El Capitan in Yosemite. Overall, it was a 3-year journey that culminated in a single 17-hour push on a sunny August day in 2014. This trip to the Yosemite valley, the endless granite routes that we climbed, the international community that I met, and the adventures we lived stand out in my memory much more than most other experiences in those years.

However, no one says it better than my rope partner Bob. When I contacted him this year to get some additional photos, he replied to me with a message that touched me deep inside:

“It’s great to hear from you and keep living your dreams. One day you will wear out and the memories or photos will be all that is left. 

Trust me, I am there currently.” 

― Bob

Bob’s message reminded me how important it is to search for your inner peaks and committing to climbing them soon rather than procrastinating and waiting for a better time. In the end, it’s never the right time for a six months trip with your spouse, why not do it next year, or the year after instead of in five or ten years?

In my opinion, everything beyond three years is more of an illusion than a concrete plan. I do encourage you to have a vision for your future self that will span 10 or 20 years. Your peaks, however, need to be concrete, tangible, and reachable. You would also not say that you will climb the Matterhorn in ten years, would you?

Ideally, these peaks lie in different areas of your life, for example, career, relationship, and hobby. I firmly believe that we all need stability and balance in our lives, like a stable platform from which we can venture out into unknown territory. If we put too much emphasis on one area of our lives (e.g., our careers) others inevitably suffer.

There is a reason, why I suggest you choose a maximum of three peaks. As Jim Collins beautifully said in Good to great:

“If you have more than three priorities, you don’t have any.” We will talk more (a lot more!) about focus and results within the personal ASCENT program.

Reflection 2: what are three peaks that you want to climb in the next three years? Take a journal and reflect on what makes these peaks meaningful to you. If you chose ambitious peaks then things will get tough and you will need a strong enough reason to keep ongoing. How will you feel, once you reach them?

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