Hit Your Peak: 10 Life Lessons I Learned From Climbing Mountains
Over the past two years, I’ve developed a deep love for mountains. No matter the season or the location, there’s something about towering peaks and deep valleys that (although terrifying with their steep cliff faces and inclement weather) inspire me.
It started off simply enough.
After college, aimless and uncertain about how to conduct myself in the "real world," I moved to Juneau, Alaska.
I knew I craved adventure and excitement. I could settle into a mediocre job at home, with the same people and the same routines. It would be easier.
But I wouldn’t be satisfied until I saw the sun set on distant horizons. Alaska, “the last frontier,” promised spectacular sunsets on breathtaking mountainous horizons.
During that year, I was in constant awe of the beauty around me. I wouldn’t be the same after.
While I could in no way be labeled an avid outdoors person, I’ve learned a few things from the simple mountain exploring I’ve accomplished so far.
1. Always be prepared.
As clichéd as it seems, preparedness is the key to both hiking up a mountain and life, in general.
You won’t regret packing your rain jacket or the extra bottle of water. Similarly, you won’t regret the blanket you threw in your car during the winter, or the extra couple of tampons you tossed in your purse.
2. Remember to breathe.
You’ve started up a steep incline, and your legs are burning. Take a deep breath. In and out, in and out.
Let the air fill your lungs. In and out, in and out.
Slowly exhale. Repeat this process. You’ll be okay.
You’re late to work. Your computer deleted the important file you need. Whatever the case may be, just remember to breathe.
3. A little discomfort can be healthy.
Your muscles are cramping, your side aches and you can’t seem to catch your breath. You’re calling yourself every type of crazy for attempting this hike in the first place.
It’s a freakin’ mountain! How can you climb a mountain?
But you can, and you will.
The discomfort and the pain will make you stronger. In life, it’s important to push ourselves outside our comfort zone. We grow by attempting what we think we can’t accomplish.
Who knows? You just might surprise yourself.
4. Appreciate the beauty.
I’ve learned it’s important to take a few minutes, no matter where your hike goes or where life takes you.
Sometimes, we get so caught up in the destination, we forget how beautiful the journey is.
It’s a breathtaking, dizzying and crazy ride we’re all on. Take a few moments to revel in it.
5. Go your own pace.
When I first started hiking, I was terrified of going slower than others and holding them up. One day, I decided it shouldn’t matter.
I vowed to no longer let fear hold me back and stop me from going on new adventures. Embrace your pace, and don’t compare yourself to others. You will enjoy the hike and your life so much more if you embrace who you are and where you are.
There’s no need to go faster than you’re comfortable going. There’s no need to belittle your accomplishments and measure them up against others.
You do you, love.
6. Don’t let fear stop you.
There were many times I turned down an invitation for a hike due to fear: fear of looking incompetent, fear of the arduousness or fear of the mountain itself.
I wish I hadn’t let fear stop me.
In life, as in hiking, don’t let fear hold you back. It might be more than you’re used to, but attempt it anyway.
Regardless of whether or not you succeed, there is beauty in the attempt. To be paralyzed by fear is to stop appreciating the beauty that surrounds us.
7. Just keep moving forward.
You are half-way up the mountain. Your legs are aching, you are out of breath and you don’t think you can take another step forward. Regardless of the challenge, whether it’s a half-finished term paper, a work project or a marathon, you can do it.
Take a small break. Step back, look around and appreciate how far you’ve come.
If you’ve made it this far, a few more steps won’t hurt.
8. A little is better than nothing.
There are some days I’m just not feeling it.
But I try anyway. I’ve found it’s better to attempt a small hike than to sit at home, stewing in whatever emotion I’m feeling.
So get out there. Go for a walk. Read a book. Grab a coffee. Put on some music and shake it off.
We all have those days. But sometimes, the activity, the people and the beautiful wilderness are all we need.
9. You gain perspective at the top.
The hike is rigorous and harder than you expected. You’re ready to turn back, but you keep pushing forward.
The same applies to life.
The new job might not be what you expected. The move to the new city isn’t as seamless as you hoped, but you persevere. At the end, you’re able to gain perspective.
Maybe the new job wasn’t what you were passionate about. Maybe big city life isn’t for you.
You tried, though. Through that error, you’ve gained clarity and a new perspective on what is important in your life. Onwards to the next mountain!
10. Revel in your success; you've earned it.
You made it!
You reached the top of the mountain. You got that promotion at work. You finished your big term paper.
Congratulations! Instead of rushing to the bottom or moving on to the next task, take a second. Realize how far you’ve come and how much you've accomplished. Revel in that success.
You are amazing. Throw a little party for yourself. Reflect on how far you've come.
Don’t be afraid to celebrate your accomplishments. You’ve more than earned that right.