When I was younger I was really intimidated by the prospect of hiking ten miles. Much less twenty, or thirty miles. I would say to myself, a year ago I hiked ten miles and it took all day. Why would I think about hiking twenty? But I learned that as long as I was willing to start, that all it took to finish was having the enthusiasm to continue.
Hiking a mountain doesn't start off as a painful process. The foothills are usually shallow, and you usually have to cross a few streams and meadows to get to there. But once you start going up the pain eventually finds you. Your legs tire and your back starts to ache. Breathing is harder and your feet become sore. Eventually, your entire body is telling you to stop. But if you want to finish you have to keep going.
Putting aside physical pain and mental discomfort is an incredible challenge for many people. It's also an essential part of overcoming a mountain. Climbing a mountain takes hours, or even days, and much of that experience will not be comfortable, and some of it may be quite painful. The only way to overcome it is to become so singularly focused on your objective that you can ignore the parts that are telling you to stop. How you confront that challenge will tell you a lot about who you really are.
This summer on the John Muir Trail I met a fellow thru-hiker at the top of Seldon Pass. She was a 68 year old grandmother and mother of 3. And she was hiking all 211 miles of the John Muir Trail by herself. We talked for a while that day. She kept up with us down to Muir Trail Ranch. At that point, another hiker asked if she wanted someone to hike with her for the rest of the trek. But she said no. She explained that this challenge held a special meaning for her. Her whole life she had been surrounded by people, by family. So when she set out to hike the JMT she told her husband of 40 years that this was a challenge she had to undertake alone. She wanted her challenge to include the feeling of isolation, and discover on her own how to face it, even if others thought it impossible.
Sometimes overcoming a challenge yields a very tangible reward. Passing a test. Improving a score. Finishing a project. Shipping an app. Life is full of these sorts of challenges. But sometimes these challenges that seem simple become the hardest to overcome. It's at these times that we need confidence. Confidence that anything is possible if you set your mind to it.
Completing a physical and mental challenge like climbing a mountain is all about gaining that confidence that you can overcome any challenge. It will remove the notion from your mind that something is impossible.