When your legs are giving up, your body is aching, and you are about to collapse, the only thing that can keep you going is your mind. That’s a lesson that you often learn the hard way.
This weekend, I had gone on a trip with the purpose of hiking in the Swiss and French Alps.
The first day, we did an initial hike that was supposed to terminate high up in the mountains in an area where there is still snow. I knew it was going to be tough, but thought that while I had not really trained, I could handle it.
Boy, was I wrong! Hiking up a hill is much more challenging than walking on a flat surface. You are almost always going up. You start feeling muscles you never knew you had. Your body tires out really quickly, especially if you have not done this on a regular basis. Further up, the lack of oxygen and pressure also becomes a challenge.
Slowly, I was starting to tire and my body was starting to give way. I just wanted to be at the end. At one point we had gotten to a clearing, where during the winter there is a skiing slope, however this time it was covered by grass, as most of the snow had already melted.
We walked further and first signs of snow on the ground started to appear. After a small hike through a group of trees, we arrived at the hardest part of the entire trail.
I looked up and saw a very steep slope that was continuing way up. No way was I going to be able to reach the top. I was tired and felt like dying right there and then.
My muscles were burning and I could barely feel my legs. With every move, I just felt worse and worse. It was a struggle just taking a single step. Should I end up journey there and turn around and go back?
I had been a quitter in many moments of my life and came to regret it later. I was not going to quit now. There are moments when you should quit and I had done it on a trek two summers ago. However this was not it.
What I needed to do is to muster all my remaining strands of strength and willpower myself through. I decided that I was going to reach the finish no matter what.
I looked up at the top, then put my head down and took a slow first step towards the finish. The nature all around me was breath-taking, but I did not notice. All my willpower was engaged in trying to reach the top. I had no willpower left for anything else.
Slowly, but methodically I was pushing myself. With every step I was getting closer towards my goal. Your mind is an amazing tool, one that can power you through when you thought you had no reserves left. Your body has been built for survival and can withstand a lot more than you think.
With these final last hard steps that I was making, I started thinking on how we have degenerated. Us, city boys no longer have any contact with nature, with our real selves. We sit in the office all day and have lost our real purpose. We are no longer resilient, we have no stamina, no survival skills.
Many of us don’t even have the right values and a sense of what really matters. Many people live to party, to get drunk and do drugs. This is what is considered “cool”. People have lost their direction in life and think doing a line of cocaine in the bathroom of a club is what life should be about.
They don’t realize what type of repercussions this type of lifestyle has on the rest of the world. Thousands of people die in other parts of the world due to this druggie lifestyle taking hold in what is considered the “developed” world. Entire towns in Mexico have been depopulated and their citizens threatened with violence on a daily basis, just because spoiled Johny wants to shoot up or get high.
I never followed the herd in this meaningless lifestyle, but this hiking was a wake-up call nevertheless. I realized that I too had lost my direction, that I had lost touch with nature. The three days of hiking woke me up to that and all the work that I needed to do.
Finally, the last few steps were a nightmare. I was on the verge of collapse and the only thing I wanted to do was lie down on the slope. With a final push of intense effort I succeeded in arriving at the top.
The view around me was spectacular and I could savor it. What made it even sweeter was the fact that I had overcome an intense struggle to get there. I was filled with a powerful feeling of accomplishment. I had achieved something, which just half an hour ago I thought I was never going to achieve and was ready to give up on.
Of course, that was not the end, I still needed to go down, and that day was also followed by two other days of hiking. However this moment right there and then, gave me the confidence that I needed in order to survive the rest.
I also saw the naked reality of where I stood. This was the first training session in order to prepare for a trip to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro at the end of August. I am not ready, but now I know. I need to start preparing more intensely, work harder and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime. I have a goal and a strong motivation to achieve it.
This will also help develop an intense focus, that I will be able to use for many things. I have also seen what life should be about. It shouldn’t be about sitting in the office all day and getting drunk on the weekends. There are much more important things.
It should be about challenging yourself, and becoming a better person.