I considered myself to be a fairly fit person until I met Stone Mountain. Stone Mountain is a sight to behold, about 10 miles outside of downtown Atlanta, it is the world’s largest piece of exposed granite. It is a sight to behold. When you get to the top of Stone Mountain, the view will take your breath away with a breathtaking view of Atlanta and the surrounding areas, it is glorious. On one side of the mountain is a carving of the leaders of the Confederate army, which is fraught with all types of controversy as to whether it should be removed but that is the subject for another post.
The road to Stone Mountain is steep, uneven and deceiving with jutting rocks and gravel. It is so deceiving you will ascend to one portion of the mountain and believe you have reached the top and then you will catch sight just ahead of an even steeper incline in front of you. It is completely unpredictable. At the end of summer, September 2018, I began my first of many hikes up Stone Mountain. The battle up the mountain made me consider what it means to achieve hard stuff in this world, to go against the tide, to scale high heights that not many would attempt.
It is not easy but so worth it. Once, I finally made it to the top, the view was so worth it. It was even more worth it for the euphoria of accomplishment and overcoming a difficult challenge. In my way down, in a moment of deep reflection, I began to list the top 5 necessary items and tools to achieve hard stuff so here are my musings:
5. Don’t be surprised by a lack of motivation or times of frustration, prepare for it.
When you start the challenge, you are going to be hyped, excited, ready to take on the world. It will not last, it never does. Most people think it will so they do not prepare for when it does not and they believe they no longer supposed to continue. Not true. Everything is seasonal, even motivation but the key is to keep going even when you are not feeling it. How do you do that? Great question. Here some other tips to keep yourself motivated in the midst of an uphill battle.
4. Get your tribe.
I started hiking by myself but eventually fell in step with a group. one was a man who looked to be in his 60s, another was a family with a boy who looked to be like 3 or 4 years old with a walking stick. Everytime I looked at these two athletes and the other people in our little makeshift group, I said surely, if they can do it, I can too. My ankle started throbbing at one point, I stopped briefly to stretch it out and then kept moving to catch up with the group. Get people around you who are moving in the same direction who will push you to make it.
3. Acknowledge the pain but do not bask in it.
Doing hard stuff is well…hard, no ifs, ands or buts around it, that is why so many people avoid hard stuff, it takes determination, time and resources do hard stuff. Some things you encounter will be painful, I guarantee it. But similar to what I mentioned with my ankle, acknowledge the pain but don’t fall into the trap of self pity and fear. I can say this honestly because I did it for years, it is easy to do but I believe if you keep moving you will learn how to manage the pain yet still make the destination (and win!) or the pain will go away on its own and the goal is still met (another win!) Keep moving, don’t let pain stop you.
2. Focus on the end to get you through.
At one point, every muscle in my body felt like it was screaming and ready to give up in protest. So, I started to play a game where I imagined myself at the top, wind blowing through my hair, relaxed and accomplished. Did it make the pain stop? Nope. Did it make it bearable? Absolutely. I stopped focusing on it, it was like an annoying photo bomber who just refuses to step out of your frame but it was not the main thing. The main thing was the top, the goal of completing, finishing, accomplishing, my mind was already there just had to physically get there
1. Pay it Forward.
When I got to the top, it was glorious, my body felt like one big ball of hurt but my mind and spirit felt incredible. It was better than I imagined the view, the feeling, the wind and the sense of peace and accomplishment. I basked in it for awhile and the headed back down the mountain, triumphant and pleased. Well on the way down the mountain, I ran into my former self, so many people still making the upward battle, faces twisted in pain, chests heaving, wondering when and if the end will ever come. And I started cheerleading, I encouraged them, told them “you are almost there, great job, keep going, you are going to feel so great when you are done.” I saw there faces relax for a bit, renewed confidence and focus and their pace quicken a bit in anticipation for the end. We all need encouragement, we are just wired that way. Once we make it, we have an obligation to help others, we cannot do it for them, we may not be able to carry them but we can encourage them, we can be open to serve as inspiration that they can do it too and it is possible.
I believe we are created for hard stuff, if you are not moving forward, you are falling back.
Look at how beautifully complex our bodies and minds are, we were created to solve problems, achieve the unattainable and scale the impossible.
We owe it to our Creator and we owe it to ourselves.
Go get it.