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March 21, 2014 | Written by: Scott Carlton

Letting Go: The Art of Climbing Your Own Personal Mount Everest

When I think of climbing the world’s highest mountain, letting go is the last thing that comes to mind. Physical strength, resolve, drive and determination are the necessary tools I cling to. Not to mention, staking claim to something so few men and women have accomplished.

But according to experienced climbers, taking on Everest requires more curiosity than confidence. More gratitude than gravitas. More acceptance than aggressiveness.

Mountain climber and executive coach, Vivian Rigney, describes the mental challenge of making such a trek, ”Your mind starts playing tricks on you. The voices go overtime telling you what you can and can’t do.”

Rigney also added, “You have to empty out all distracting thoughts or resort to decoys like singing a song or thinking of something completely different. Only then can you feel at peace and continue on.”

But honestly, if you’re like me, just the thought of scaling Everest is a pointless endeavor. On some days, climbing the flight of stairs to my apartment is a challenge. Still, with an open mind, it may not be so out of reach. Even with feet firmly set on the cement pavement of Hudson Street, Everest could be our teacher, too.

Rigney says, “Everyone has their Everest. Changing careers, getting a masters, handling the loss of someone close to you, reaching out in new ways to family members. People experience great challenge every day. The real question is—do we take the time to understand, to look inside ourselves, to embrace what’s really going on at those times?”

Rigney goes on to clarify that some of these challenges are chosen and some are not. Life has a way of pulling us onto paths we never thought we’d find ourselves. Life on life’s terms requires everyone to embrace, on any given day, particular characteristics and psychological tools.

Holistic health coach and author, Frances Murchison, adds, “It’s less about reaching your destination and more about self-acceptance in the middle of the journey.” Murchison also points out, “The risk is telling yourself that you’re not complete until you’ve reached the top. It’s a trap to say that everything must be bigger and better. It’s more about making peace in the moment by taking the next step forward.”

In other words, we move toward accomplishment when we let go of the fear by accepting our situation with honesty and compassion. We can then go farther than we ever thought possible.

SSW Art Supervisor, Harris Shaw, puts it another way. “Recently, I was asked to speak publicly on a professional panel—something I’d never done before. Even though I was prepared, I was nervous—a little scared. But instead of sitting with the fear, I told myself, let’s see where this thing goes. The big task turned out to be a series of small steps—one after another. The end result was something I really enjoyed—and want to do again.”

So what do we need to start moving upward? What rational “gear” do we pack to help us not only get through the experience—but reach higher ground?

  1. Honesty—mostly with ourselves—is key. Ask yourself what’s really going on—how are you feeling? It’s the first step to discovering truth.
  2. Ask for help. Reach out and share your feelings with someone you trust. Finding acceptance in community with just one other person helps us discover who we are and exhibit empathy towards others.
  3. Take time to listen. Reflection to think through situations allows us to hear directions for the next right move.
  4. Give time, time. Reaching new heights doesn’t happen overnight. It can sometimes be a long journey to growth—stick with it and you’ll make progress.
  5. Keep an open mind. Our tendency is to make judgments—to project. But maybe we’re not so good at predicting the future after all.
  6. Let it go. Try not to hold on to all those thoughts in your head. Take judgment out of the moment. And who knows, good things may turn out to be not-so-good. Bad things may turn out to be welcome surprises. Everything belongs.
  7. Find the teaching moment. The joy is the journey. Your climb to the next level is full of lessons. As you struggle to move up the mountain, question your doubts, ask your fears, “What are you trying to teach me?”

In order for us to stay the course, we have to be willing to let go of ourselves. And instead, embrace with curiosity some degree of uncertainty. Acknowledge the anxiety we’re feeling as nothing more than a reminder that we’re exploring uncharted territory. It’s from this wisdom that we’ll reach our summit, whatever that may be, and find our way down the other side back home to familiarity.

About the author
Scott Carlton
Scott is Associate Creative Director at SSW. His wellness pledge is to keep fit by eating plenty of chicken and yogurt.

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