“We should not be blamed for thinking our undertakings beautiful and grand, for they are.  Meaning is born from struggle, and each of us has our own unique battle.  My truths are not universal, which is one reason they are so difficult to express.” — Steve House, mountain climber and author


Mountains have fooled us all.

What I mean is that the idea of climbing a mountain, of summiting, is so pervasive as a metaphor for struggle, for overcoming, for accomplishment that we believe it’s really like that.  We think that we make the decision to scale the mountain, we reach the top and then we’re done.

But that’s an over-simplification.  Not only is progress non-linear, it is non-final.

Between the first exciting steps and the ultimate summit of accomplishment lives an enormous expanse that is the reality of the journey.  I disagree with the philosophy of “eyes on the prize.”  I would rather keep my eyes on my feet, watching and actually participating in the journey.  A goal is a great motivator, getting us up off the couch and into action.  Once we are moving the goal ceases to be of any import.

When we focus only on a goal we stay in the past, with the person we were when we began, the person who needed that goal in order to start.  To be fully present we must be fully engaged with our process, immersed in the grinding climb.  To arrive in this moment we have to abandon the idea of the summit.  We must forget anything but this very step we are taking, this very breath.

And we must embrace the reality of the climb which is this:  when (if it’s still important to us) we eventually reach that summit, we don’t die, we’re not done.  Our goals are often small.  Finish a degree, buy a house, lose 15 pounds, get a new job.  They can have a big impact, but they are not the culmination of our life.  They are not all we are.

The goal is not the goal.  The climb is the reality of our day to day lives.  Just that simple act of showing up and taking the step that is required of us.  Making that choice, day in and day out.  The path is the goal.  Either you show all the way up for this right now, whatever this is, or you don’t exist at all in real time.

How much of your life will you be here for?

You don’t have to earn your life.  You already have it, as unlikely and miraculous as it is.  You don’t have to earn the experience of your life by being different than you are.  Having a goal will give you reason to act and thereby engage that experience.  And releasing the goal, once you have set out for it, learning to trust the path you have chosen and yourself to walk it, will give you the strength to continue forward.

And where will you end up?  Only by staying present to your journey can you learn that.

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Elias Gross