In the summer of 2008 I had a small but powerful epiphany. Maybe you will hear something familiar inside of this story as well.
I had made it a goal for the summer to run all the way up a massively steep hill near my apartment in Arlington, VA. After months of trying I was still only able to get three quarters the way up before having to stop and walk.
One day I got really frustrated. How can I not get myself up this hill? Why is this so hard for me?
And then a voice – other than my own – appeared in my mind and very clearly stated, “You are on the right hill.”
That’s it. These were the only words this voice shared and yet I was taken aback by their implications.
All of a sudden it became clear that once I climbed the top of this hill I would just go find another hill to climb.
It was instantly obvious that enjoying the climb was just as, if not more important as getting to the top of the hill.
In that moment I knew that climbing this very hill was right where I needed to be. I didn’t have to push harder or do more. All I had “to do” was enjoy the climb.
The Nature of Life
The nature of life is to always be climbing somewhere. Being done with the climb is not the goal. Reaching the goal is not really the goal. Enjoying the climb is the goal – if there even needs to be a goal.
When I was struck by this wonderful insight I was in the middle of my first full year running my business. And I immediately knew I was being offered a sneak peek into a way to grow my business (and life) that would be most effective.
Even if I didn’t make it to the top – relaxing into the climb, being patient, and enjoying the process – would give me the best chance of success.
I wish I could tell you that I took this powerful message to heart and never forgot it for a moment.
But of course that would be a lie.
The truth is I forgot this lesson pretty much the moment I arrived back home. And I’ve had to relearn it a thousand times since.
1. I’m human. This is what we do. This is actually a part of the climb. We forget our most precious lessons. Part of the process is learning how to bring ourselves back every time we stray from our truth. Leaving space in the day to quiet the mind and connect to the deeper wisdom inside of us is very helpful here. 30 seconds a day counts.
2. I’m impatient. So impatient that at different times I have been willing to sacrifice my health, relationships, and enjoyment of life in order to climb faster. I’ve (repeatedly) learned the hard way that this strategy backfires every single time.
Why am I in such a hurry? Why are you? Well, it makes a lot of sense that we need to race to the top of whatever hill we are climbing (i.e. finishing our to-do list, losing weight, career success, wealth accumulation, artistic expression, etc.) if we are using this accomplishment as our permission to fully enjoy life, to feel good about ourselves, etc. Why do we think it is possible to stress ourselves into a state of peace and fun?
3. I’m tired. OK I’ll admit it. There is a part of me that is really sick of climbing. This is the other reason I want to put my head down and race furiously up the hill. I secretly don’t want to climb anymore. Maybe I’m lazy. Maybe I’m terrified and exhausted of constantly putting myself “out there”. Maybe I just want to “make it” to the top so that climbing becomes optional.
The only problem with this line of thinking is that it is totally delusional. Because we are always climbing. Part of the great cosmic joke is that even in our refusal to climb we are still climbing. We are just doing so with a lot more resistance to the process.
Surrendering to the climb – and falling in love with the process – is clearly a work in progress for me. But over the last couple of years I have noticed that I can bring myself back to this truth more quickly. And like a spiral staircase each time around the bend I come back with a little more perspective.
I can see that the more I slow down and trust the process the less impatience, anxiety, and general frustration I experience on my climb. I can also see that when I allow things to flow more of the results I seek flow toward me.
I don’t have to push so hard to do and am getting more and more glimpses of what it is like to be on the right hill. And to enjoy the view.
Interestingly, back in 2008 – a few weeks after hearing this voice inside my head – I ran up the entire hill from bottom to top and then some. And you know how I did it?
Slowly. One conscious step at a time.