Updated: Aug 16
Have you ever heard the Albert Einstein quote, “There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle”? I have a variation on this, which goes like this: "There are two ways to tackle challenges in your life. One is to fear them and wonder how on earth you'll cope. The other is to treat them all as though they are your personal Everests."
As we navigate our way through the ups and downs of life, the way in which we respond to challenges remains a personal choice. We cannot control the event itself but we have absolute control in how we react to it.
Take the current pandemic, for instance. This is completely out of our hands; the way it has affected our finances, our loved ones, our freedoms, our holidays, our social lives. On occasion, I have allowed these infringements of my liberties to get to me, and I've bowed to the weighty pressure of the daily doom and gloom of the news, the never-neverending death tolls and the economic crises that have overshadowed the lives of so many.
But when I've taken stock and allowed myself some time to reflect, I have found myself, time and time again, marching resolutely towards my original goal, which is that I will come out of this situation, not just ok, but stronger, wiser, and having learned important lessons. When we begin to approach each one of our difficulties as a personal Everest, it switches our perception, so that we see not a terrifying, unconquerable summit, but rather something mighty to master; a problem to solve; a mountain to climb; a series of base camps to reach. We can look up to the distant peak, see it, acknowledge it, know that this is where we are ultimately headed, and then we can transfer our attention to our feet.
What is right beneath me? What rocks do I have to clamber across here, in this moment of my journey? What crevasses must I build a makeshift bridge for, in order to get across? What inner strength do I need to draw upon to face this terrifying stretch of snow and ice, and how do I maintain its momentum until I reach a safer place?
And applying this reasoning, we can manage smaller problems or goals more easily too, with less self-doubt and worry: always bringing our focus to this moment, this challenge, this hill I'm running up or work project I'm struggling to finish for a tight deadline, or this uncomfortable conversation I have to have with a friend or family member, or this walk I have to take with the dog in the freezing cold or pouring rain.
This Everest mentality is all about growth mindset. Challenges are opportunities to grow in emotional resilience and inner strength, to understand yourself more clearly and to recognise with increased certainty just how strong you are.
A mantra of mine that I have been using for a long time, and which never fails to comfort and inspire me, is this; "You are always, always, always stronger than you think". I like to imagine that mountaineers, faced with ascending Everest, benefit from using the same affirmation.