My friend, Darren, hiked up 4,800 feet powered by his mind. His body followed. He said that he would do it. He saw in his mind that he could do it. And then he actually did it.
A few weeks ago, I went to Yosemite with a few friends to hike up Half Dome. There were six of us in the group. Four of us had hiked Half Dome in years past, so we didn't think twice about being able to do it. The four of us are marathon runners so we know how to push our body, manage our fuel, and gauge our ability. One of the two people who had not previously climbed the mountain is an avid cyclist who rides for hours most days of the week, so we weren't worried about him being able to reach the top either. And then there was Darren. Darren was the motivator for the trip, but he is not a marathoner and he doesn't cycle for hours at a time. When he began training for the hike, he was a little overweight. He hoped the training would help him lose some weight, making it easier to get up the mountain.
Darren lives an hour from the rest of us, so much of his training was done on his own. He did complete 15 mile training hikes, but these were mostly on flat terrain. On the few training hikes we did as a group, any time we started to climb hills, Darren didn't feel well. He was nauseous and out of breath. Some of Darren's family members expressed concern about him being able to make it to the top.
Hiking to the top of Half Dome is eight miles one-way with 4,800 feet elevation gain. Once you get to the top, you have to have enough energy to make your way back down another eight miles—no easy feat on tired legs. We started our hike at 4:30 in the morning, outfitted with headlamps to see our way in the dark for the first few hours. It's important to leave early enough to make it to the cables before the crowds show up, and to make it down before dark.
By mile one, Darren was already not doing well. By mile two, he was making himself throw up his breakfast because he felt nauseous. As the miles passed, Darren lagged further and further behind. We waited for him at various points along the way. We found ourselves doubting whether he could make it to the top (and back down again). Darren couldn't eat any food because whenever he did, he felt nauseous. This was certainly a concern for a full day's journey where fueling the body was critical. At many points along the way, we checked in with Darren to make sure he understood that even if he thought he had a few more miles in him, those miles should be used to make his way down.
Around mile six, we were getting tired ourselves. Although we knew we could make it to the top, it was still a physical challenge for us as well. If Darren wasn't going to make it to the top, it made sense for us to move a little faster so that we could make it up and down the mountain before dark. Darren said that he wasn't ready to give up and turn around just yet but for us to go ahead. Our plan was to get to the top and meet him on his way down. So up we went.
As the five of us hiked what is called "subdome," we knew there was no way that Darren could do this part. First of all, we doubted he would even make it to subdome, and second of all, if he did make it to the base of subdome, he wouldn't be able to hike up it. It was rocky and extremely steep. Once you get through subdome, you still have to climb up to the top of the mountain via cables. Many people who make it all the way to the top of subdome, stay at the bottom of the cables—unable to complete this final segment to get to the top. Imagine 400 feet of vertical rock with cables to hold on to with each hand (you are not tethered in). If you fall off the cables, you'll likely fall to your death. It's certainly understandable why some people choose to wait at the bottom of the cables for others in their party to make that final ascent.
We left voicemails and texts telling Darren that it was harder than we remembered. We advised that he turn around wherever he was. We would catch up to him on the journey down. Cell coverage was spotty so we were never able to get in touch with him live to see if he got our messages. After about 40 minutes enjoying the top of the mountain, we decided it was time to make the journey back down. Just as we started down the cables, we were positively amazed at what we saw. Darren was climbing up the cables. I have chills just recreating this in my mind. Physically, there is no logical way that Darren should have been able to make it to the top that day. He did it mentally and his body followed. He had such drive to make it to the top that there was no other option for the day.
When Darren got to the top, it was an emotional moment. I know this moment. I felt it when I ran my first marathon. At the time I started training for my first marathon, I wasn't a runner. For me, running 26.2 miles was an unachievable goal. I couldn't run one mile, how could I possibly run 26? But I did. I trained for five months and I ran a marathon. When I crossed the finish line, I realized that I could do anything I set my mind to. I'm guessing that in that moment, Darren felt the same way. Give yourself the gift of this kind of moment—when you have pushed yourself mentally and physically beyond your imagination. It's an amazing feeling that stays with you and inspires you for life.
On the top of the mountain, Darren shared with us that someone at his office had recently tried to climb Half Dome and had been unable to. This co-worker told Darren he had to do it as the representative of the company! The co-worker told many people about Darren's endeavor, so in the weeks leading up to the hike, Darren had people asking him about it and cheering him on. The day before the hike, Darren bought an "I climbed Half Dome" shirt. One of the other people in our group said he'd never buy the shirt before the hike. I think it's absolutely essential to buy the shirt beforehand! State your intention. Put your goal out there. Visualize getting it done. And then complete your goal. Say it. See it. Do it.
When I was training for my first marathon seven years ago, I read The Non-Runner's Marathon Trainer and it said to tell one new person every day that "I am a marathoner." I love this idea. Every day I did tell someone new that I was training for a marathon. To this day, every time I go to the dentist, he asks about my marathon running because he happened to be one of the people I told along the way.
Darren inspired me that day. Even as he stumbled his way down to the bottom, tired and undernourished, he kept his positive attitude. I wanted Darren to make it to the top that day, but honestly, I really didn't think it was physically possible for him that day. He had no food in him, he was hurting from the first mile, and he had no successful hilly training hikes. But what I underestimated was Darren's mental strength. His mental fortitude made up for what I thought was physically impossible for him that day. Thank you, Darren, for the reminder of the power of the mind.
It doesn't matter what your goal is. Say it. Share it. See it. And by see it, I mean really visualize yourself accomplishing the goal. And then, just do it. Be athletic. Push yourself to places you never thought you could go.
Post in the comment section at the bottom of this blog and let us be the person you tell today about your goal. It doesn't have to be running a marathon or hiking up Half Dome. Whatever is physically and mentally challenging for you is a great feat. It's all about what is the personal challenge for each of us based on where we are at in our lives. I look forward to hearing your goal!
Dina Colman, MA, MBA, is a healthy living coach and writer. She has her Master’s degree in Holistic Health Education from John F. Kennedy University and her MBA from Kellogg at Northwestern University. She founded Four Quadrant Living—a simpler, natural, more fun way to a healthier, happier, and energetic life. Four Quadrant Living provides information and motivation for healthy living through nourishment of the four quadrants of our lives—Mind, Body, Relationships, and Environment. Dina has a private practice, working with clients to help them create health in their lives by eating well, finding the fun in exercise, reducing stress, managing relationships, and creating a healthy environment. Dina is also writing a book about healthy living that will be published in 2013. Contact Dina at email@example.com
Follow on Twitter Like on Facebook Newsletter Sign Up