How do you define success? I’ve been thinking about that idea all week.
Last weekend, I went backpacking with three lifelong friends who come to the Tetons each year for a few days of fun, friendship and mountain climbing, even if our hair is turning grey. This year we chose an enigmatic peek called Mt. Thor (the 8th highest peak in the Tetons). We quickly realized that this adventure defined back country and bush whacking in a way we’d never known before. On the second day, still over 1,500 feet from the summit, we threw in the towel. Our muscles were sore, we had scratches all over our bodies, and all of our food for the night was back at the water’s edge of Leigh Lake. We failed to make the summit.
It was a hard call. We all are driven to achieve our goals. We’d spent time and money to get there. And, we overestimated our ability to move quickly through thick brush and boulders.
While we failed to meet our goal, we realized that success is not so linear, even though we often hold it as so. Here’s where we succeeded – we laughed a lot and deepened our connection; no one got hurt and we grew in our ability to boulder, bushwhack, cross rivers and improve our fitness. We succeeded in seeing more wildlife than we’d ever seen on our previous five years of adventures combined. We succeeded in learning how to better prepare so we can have another go at Mt. Thor next year.
And as I think about the deeper “why” we go on these adventures, I realize that growing, learning and loving are equally as important as achieving the final result. Perhaps in some ways, those reasons are even more important.
How often do I (perhaps even we) focus so much on the goal that all the other values and deeper successes get run over or overlooked – hurting our long-term health, relationships and opportunity for greater prosperity.
As Dr. Seuss says in his wonderful book, Oh, the Places You’ll Go, “Life is a great balancing act.” The more we lean in to the deeper values of why we do something and how we want to show up, the more we may accomplish. The less weight we put on accomplishments and the more weight we put on how we want to show up in the world, the more we may become who we want to be.
And it all begins with taking a few minutes every day to breathe in the values we want to embody, recognize the deeper successes and set intentions to take small steps to lean into that feeling.
To all the successes that mindfulness, intentions and gratitude can bring, to making it to the top of Mt. Thor next year and to the journey along the way.