Take that first step no matter the challenge

Looking up the InclineMy wife and I climbed the Incline last week for the first time this spring. For those of you not aware, the Incline is located in Manitou Springs just outside Colorado Springs, Colorado. The climb is only a mile long, but it gains 2000 feet of vertical to about 8,600 feet above sea level. Most of the climb is at a 40% grade and the steepest is at a 68% grade. The steps up the incline are old railroad ties left over from when it was the roadbed for the former Mount Manitou Scenic Incline Railway.

Suffice to say it is a strenuous, lung burning and heart pounding hike. In addition to being a steep climb, it sits on the mountain side facing east, so the sun pummels the steps for the majority of the day. As if the climb is not severe enough, the sun bakes whatever endurance you have left right out of you. I have seen people loosing their lunch on the side of the trail and several people have suffered heart attacks on this climb. Recently there was even a person coming back down that fell and tumbled down the railroad ties and had to be airlifted out.

Still people come from all around in droves to conquer this climb. My wife and I have done it many times and even my kids have climbed it at the ages of 10 and 6.

This last time as I stood at the bottom and looked up I was reminded of a quote.

Source: blog.madsweat.com via Madsweat on Pinterest

Standing at the bottom, you cannot even see the top. All you can see if a false summit that is about 3/4 of the way up. You take those first steps in faith not knowing if the top is reachable or if you have the stamina to make it.

I was stricken by how many people were out there in all shapes, sizes and ages attempting this climb. As I looked around at the people climbing, I wondered how many of these people hold back in other aspects of their lives because they cannot see the end of those paths. Yet here they are out here climbing this hill; something that is probably more demanding than most challenges that they back away from in their lives.

As I contemplated this, I reasoned that there are four types of people in this world.

  1. Those that hold back in life due to physical challenges that they are to fearful to take on. They have a fear of heights, small spaces, or other phobia that stops them from certain activities. Or they fear the humiliation or exertion of taking on a physically demanding challenge.
  2. Those that hold back in life due to mental challenges that generate too much fear, anxiety and doubt. These challenges might test their intellectual muscle or belief system or may be a fear inducing challenge like public speaking or social interaction.
  3. Those that are paralyzed by both.
  4. Those are able to rise above any challenge be it mental or physical. They don’t always win, but they at least go for it despite the doubt or fear.

Looking down the Incline

These categories are not exclusive. You could fall into one category one day and fall into a different one another day. For me personally I have often let fear and anxiety hold me back from the mental challenges. I.E. speaking in front of an audience or speaking my opinion on a tough subject. But other days I am able to take these on with ease. For me the physically challenges are not so hard. I have completed a marathon, numerous triathlons, adventure races, a 24 hour relay race across the mountains, long road and mountain bike rides. I have been skydiving, white water rafting, snorkeling, surfing, sailing, para-sailing, kayaking, and have taken on the most extreme amusement park rides that I have come across. Some of these are nerve racking and difficult to push through, but for some reason they are easier to me than the mental challenges that I come across. So I tend to fluctuate between the 2nd and 4th categories.

The first step to overcoming anything is always to identify it. So If you identify which group you fall into and recognize situations where you are holding back because of this, you can move to the next step…identifying why you are holding back in theses situations.

Which category do you fall into?

Live in Expectancy and not with Expectations

Is it ok to have desires and goals in our lives? We live in a material world where we are expected to be consistently moving forward toward the next goal or accomplishment lest we be named a slacker.

This was the idea posed at the beginning of yoga class yesterday. The class sat in a seated meditation posture in the darkened studio listening to the soothing music fill the room. The instructor stood by the window at the front of the room with the sun setting over the mountains in the backdrop behind him. With the darkened room and the light pouring in from the setting sun, the instructor looked more like a shadow than a three dimensional body. He held a book and softly read from it while the class sat in silence.

The book was on teachings from the Buddha and was a question and answer format with a Buddhist teacher. The instructor read the question and answer that we were to think about during the class.

Is it ok to have desires and reach for goals?

The question was “Is it ok to have desires and reach for goals”. The answer was “yes”. However it is important to not identify with the outcomes of your goal. So if your goal was to get water, you should not get caught up in expectations about how you are going to get the water. You instead come up with a way to get the water and then go for it. If you don’t get it, you don’t get upset and cry or lash out in anger or become frustrated. You instead laugh it off and figure out a different way to get it. “Woops I guess that didn’t work. How else can I try to get the water?”

Expectancy vs. Expectations

The answer to this question reminds me of a quote that I heard at some point. It said to Live in expectancy instead of with expectations. In other words expect great things, but don’t expect them to happen in a specific way.

Living with expectations not only leads people to disappointment, but also leads them to give up trying even before they try. “Oh I’m not going to do that because I know that I will fail.” They think that they will fail because they have a set of expectations regarding what it means to accomplish their goal. They are afraid because so often when we go for something we want, we don’t accomplish what we expected, but often times what we accomplish is something even greater. We are just so caught up in our expectations that all we see is failure instead of the great thing that resulted despite our expectations.

Is there something that you are wanting to reach for in your life, but are instead holding yourself back because of your fear of not meeting your (or someone else’s) expectations?