Mountain Climbing 101: How to Conquer Life’s Problems

I love love love to hike! Hiking easily takes me to my happy place, so much so that when I was 7.5 months pregnant I hiked almost 8 miles. Now mind you, my hips still hurt a bit even a year after having my baby, so don’t do what I did. LOL! But seriously, one of the reasons I love hiking is I get to push my mind past my perception of my body’s limits. Even still, hiking for me is less about physical endurance and more about the symbolism of “conquering” the mountain. It’s a very literal parallel for me. Each time I hike, I always have this image playing in my mind that climbing a mountain is like handling one of life’s difficult problems.

Sometimes life makes us feel like we are in a valley, looking up at an endless mountain humbling us in its presence. Mocking and intimidating us simultaneously. All while fiercely blocking where we are presently and where we desire to be. You know, it isn’t a tiny mountain you can just gingerly skip across on a whim. This is one of those mountains that requires provisions and focused attention because you’re going to be at it for a while and it’s going to take some fight to make it to the top. And let’s be honest those mountains can be overwhelming. Those mountains make us wonder is it really worth the time and the energy? And then there’s the conversation we won’t willingly admit out loud to most anyone. “Can I really do this? Am I strong enough? Will I quit? I mean I’ve easily quit hard things before. Do I even want to go through the hassle? Where I am, though uncomfortable isn’t really that bad. I mean I’m alive, right? So and so encountered a similar mountain but she’s this and that and I’m not any of those things.”

So here’s the deal, that internal conversation you are having with yourself will either keep you from ever attempting to climb the mountain or it will give you enough courage to start the climb. Your problem, like that mountain, will not just go away. It’s there and will continue to be there, waving it’s little annoying, nubby finger right in your face until you conquer it. It’s all up to you. You have to decide, put on your big girl panties and start moving.

I’m not asking you to close your eyes and just endure until your problem is over because chances are it will not resolve itself. I’m not asking you to take a passive position. No, climbing (forward movement) takes strength and endurance. One doesn’t just stand at the base of a mountain and simply hope to reach the top. No. One must put one foot in front of the other. Effort. And push past any physical discomfort until the desired result is achieved. So your mountain looks like a looming divorce. Deep debt. Being a single parent. A dead-end career. Depression. Bad health. Abuse. Infertility. Desiring to be married. Starting a new business. Fill in your own blank. It can all be conquered, if you only have faith to begin the climb.

No mountain is the same; no step on the mountain is the same. But a few things are always present when conquering a mountain.

  1. You will exert physical energy and you will have to push past all pain barriers – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. At times you might have to ignore your pain just to keep moving. Despite physical exertion you will use more mental strength and energy to keep moving.
  2. Rather or not you make it to the top is based on your mental capacity. Not only do you have to make sound decisions while being physically spent, but you also have to keep motivating yourself – maybe even out loud. Yea you might look like a crazy person talking to yourself, but you have to give yourself mental pep talks.
  3. I can guarantee without question you will want to quit at some point. Likely when you are closest to the top (and don’t know it) and it gets the hardest to climb because you are exhausted. What was required to get halfway up the mountain is not what is needed for the other half.
  4. You will need some sort of a guide like a map. There are some people who’ve climbed very similar mountains before….successfully. Consider seeking them out and learn what they did to win. Granted their story will not be your story exactly, but it might be helpful or inspiring.
  5. You may have to go seek out reinforcement to help you get up the mountain…a friend, sister, somebody! The more physical energy is needed the more you will need someone else to help support you. And if you don’t have anyone, I’ll cheer for you.
  6. You may be alone on your climb most of the time and that’s OK. You are strong enough to conquer the mountain by yourself. Everything you need is already in you to win.
  7. Once you start don’t give up. Consider what you’ve already invested to this point. Don’t let those tears and sweat be for nothing.
  8. At this moment you could be seconds, minutes, hours, days, or months from beating you problem. Think of this when you want to quit, “I could be seconds away…” Though an end may not be in sight, this is when you bare down, grit your teeth and give it all you have.

When you are tired of circling the same mountain, dealing with the same problem year after year, conquer it once and for all.

Hopeless?

Awhile ago I became complacent. Stagnant. Stale. Sounds terrible right? I wasn’t happy with a few situations in my life, but I was learning to accept them. The blunt verb to describe what I was doing was settling. And I’m anti-settling. But “settling” started slowly creeping into my life because I was tired of wishing and releasing mental energy for change that was happening. I lost my hope for those things to actually change.

One of the beautiful attributes of hope, is its ability to instantly “lift” your spirit. It happens the moment you believe in the possibility of being better than you were yesterday. This belief sparks a sensation of joy and peace. Then hope brings a lightness to your mood and spirit. It’s a defibrillator for your spirit. It pulls you out of depression into a world, wide open with endless possibility. Suddenly a good marriage doesn’t seem too far off. A new home isn’t out of door. Or simply being consistently happy isn’t a stretch.

Hope gives you aim. You are able to “place” your faith. It brings a desire from fantasyland to an intimate, right-in-your-face-I-can-really-have-that place. No longer is it just wishing to have a good marriage but “oh yea it’s possible for me and my husband to be madly in love with one another again.”

Hope allows us to order something else from the menu of life. If you don’t like what you see in your life today, politely raise your hand to order something more to your liking. When looking at what you really want in your life remember to check out the price. Maybe to get that happy marriage you wholeheartedly desire, you have to stop talking so much and listen or stop telling your business. Or to get the new job you have to be diligent where you are today. Whatever the cost may be don’t be discouraged by it, you can handle it.

Hope allows us to see potential where previously it was void. Situations don’t seem so bleak anymore. And that spark of hope lights a fire for us to go and do something.

Hope doesn’t stop at possibility; it should propel you to go do something to manifest what you would like. Faith without works my friend is dead. Don’t let your hope or faith die due to your inaction.

As for me…my hope is very much alive today. And when I have moments of doubt or discouragement, I have a mental image full of faith I replay. Sometimes I’m instantly brought back to my place of hope and other times it takes more effort. Either way, I’m not letting hope…or faith die with me. I encourage you to think of the possibility of what you really want your life to be like. Don’t be afraid to dream and imagine yourself in the life you deeply desire. Allow that hope to revive the faithless places in your life. Pray the prayers that scare you because they are so big you cannot accomplish them in your own strength!

Be Selective Who You Share Your Problems With

I’m going to ask a question I already know the answer to, but for the sake of pondering a new thought I’m going to ask anyway.

Have you ever pulled up a chair, curled up on the sofa, laid on your bed sobbing about a problem to your best girlfriend, mom, sister, auntie, second-cousin-twice-removed-named-Amanda? I mean you went into the long version of the story. You know the one that started with memories from 10 years ago, present-day feelings and perceived intentions of the party. You described in painful detail what your problem was and how insurmountable it seems and just how unfair life is to you. I. Mean. Why. Is. This. Happening. To. You? You’re a good person. You buy Girl Scout cookies from all your neighbors’ kids. You’re a good – fill in the blank. You let it all out and you were all cried out. Your best girlfriend agreed with your position and/or maybe, just maybe, threw in alternative way of looking at the problem. How did you feel?

Did you feel better? I mean everyone says all you need is a good cry. A good night’s sleep. A listening ear. But really how did you feel?

I’ll venture to answer, you probably felt the exact same. No better. Maybe even worse. You reignited your disdain for the person that wronged you and now you are steaming. You stirred the pot of emotions and now they are boiling over again. You might have felt more validated in your pain. All or most of your emotions were sympathized and fussed over, so that you are resolute in your heartache.

Honestly, I too have had those conversations to many times to count. I even talked about the same problem to multiple family members, friends, coworkers, even a stranger or two. It happened so effortlessly because the pain of the problem gnawed relentlessly at me, so it was way too easy to transition from discussions on what I had for dinner to just how unfair life was at the moment. At the end of each conversation I felt the same or worse. And more than anything – nothing, absolutely nothing, was solved. The only victory was I had more sympathy and yet another person knowing intimate details of my life.

I had an ‘Ah hah’ moment awhile back to be way more selective with who I share my problems because I don’t just want to complain or vent. I actually want help solving my problem in some way, shape or form. Yes, sometimes venting and hug from a friend is all you need, but most other times useful insight from an outsider is needed. So why waste time sharing with someone who cannot give you good, sound advice?

Here are a few reasons why I’ve come to the decision to be extremely selective when it comes to sharing my problems:

  1. Life and death are in the power of the tongue. Seriously it is. Dwelling on my problem by talking about it, is not creating life. Unless I’m genuinely having a conversation with someone who can HELP me with my problem, which will ultimately breath life into a dead situation, I will not share. And I’m sure you can feel when you are having a conversation that will help you transition from one position in life to a better position. Have those conversations, but not the ones that keep you stuck where you are.
  2. Talking about a negative problem only perpetuates an environment of negativity. If I truly want the problem to change I have to change my posture, meaning change my attitude towards the problem. Yes, it is hard. I know. But you can make it through this problem without feeling the fire. Majority of you changing the way you feel about the situation has to do with your mouth again. Start using your words to improve the situation. For example, instead of talking about how crappy your husband is, talk about how he always takes out the trash without you asking even when he’s mad at you. (Start small if you have to.)
  3. I will not simply vent to anyone because everyone is not equipped to help me with my problem. I would not go to my hair stylist to birth my baby. Simple enough right? We should be selective in who we share our problems with because not everyone will give wise, unbiased, sensible feedback. Most of us tend to give advice solely from our worldview.
  4. If your problem has another person on the other end of it, they are likely the best person to communicate with not your girlfriends. If you cannot communicate with the other person, consider adding a professional or a mature 3rd – party to help you navigate the waters. Again choose the appropriate party.
  5. This is a big one…you vent to your mom (or whomever) about your husband. You get over the situation and move on. You and your husband are in a good space, but your mom still brings up that situation and judges your husband poorly because of it. Here’s the deal relationships are tricky. When you involve others through sharing your problems, you run the risk of making your significant other look bad and for others to hold a grudge. No one is perfect in a relationship. Since your mom isn’t there to see all the good your husband does she could possibly judge him only by the negative things you share. Most of us tend to vent about the negative things someone does and forget to share all the good things.

Talking about your problem isn’t changing it. Use your precious words to bring life, a new perspective, some good energy into problematic situations. If you need to talk about it, choose wisely and only share with a person/people who can truly help. Run away from those people who just want to listen, so they can run and tell someone else.

The Continual PROCESS of Forgiveness

Recently I fin-al-ly fully understood what it meant to be captive to an offense. The offender likely has moved on with their life; full of joy, careless and oblivious to the pain he/she caused you. Meanwhile, your life has stopped in that moment of offense, while you keep replaying the pain over and over again. Maybe you replay it to figure out a rational reason why he/she did this to you. Or maybe you want to decipher what you did to deserve such treatment. Regardless, you are captive to the pain and emotion of the offense, like it just happened.

If you asked me before this moment if I was a forgiving person, I would have said resoundingly,“YES” without any thought. Curse me out…I’ll forgive you. Do me dirty…I’ll forgive you. So I thought…

I discovered my form of forgiveness was not genuine, it was centered on empathizing with the offender without addressing the real issue. I had this bad habit of excusing away nasty behavior towards me, while painfully disregarding my on emotional well-being. I would “forgive” them and push their offense to the back of my mind. In most cases I would make an excuse for them and let it go, not allowing myself to go through the forgiveness process. So basically I would ignore my hurt feelings and broken heart to “forgive” them. I would “move past” the situation with smiles and make strong attempts to mend the relationship even without the offender seeking forgiveness. All the while my pain was simmering right below the surface.

Then one day I noticed in the middle of an intense conversation without agreement (a.k.a. an argument) with my sweetie, how I kept bringing up a few of the same issues over and over again. These are issues I had supposedly forgiven him for weeks, months and in some cases years ago.  As I dug up these ancient grievances, all the negativity came right back to the surface. With each tear that rushed down my cheeks, I felt just as hurt as when it first happened. My personal revelation in that moment — maybe I had not forgiven like I thought, but I simply turned a blind eye on the offense without dealing with it and me.  I was giving imitation forgiveness – meaning I would smile, say hello, tell them I forgave to get past the negative situation. But I didn’t or couldn’t release them from the offense because I had not truly forgiven. And every time I brought the offense back it, it confused the offender because they did not have the opportunity to truly understand how their actions negatively affected me.

I wanted to forgive in theory but I didn’t fully know how to in an emotionally healthy way and without disrespecting my inner peace. Forgiveness by dictionary definition is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude. Oprah has given this lovely definition, “Forgiveness is giving up the possibility that the past could be changed.” I’ve merged those two definitions to create my own:

Forgiveness is the process of letting go of a person’s past behavior towards you and accepting their actions entirely for what they were – hurtful, careless, thoughtless. Then intentionally releasing them from your desired alternate ending – the way you wanted, needed or thought they should have treated you. All while finding peace to change your attitude towards them. Ultimately realizing the power now lies within your control to dictate the course of any future relationship.

A few things to pay attention to during the process of forgiveness:

  1. It is a process! Forgiving does not in most cases happen instantaneously. You will have to work on forgiving little by little. The bigger the offense/hurt/pain the longer it might take to forgive.
  2. You cannot change the past so give up the hope it could have been different. There tends to be a nagging feeling that if I would have done X then Y would have occurred. You don’t know that for certain. You could have changed your action and still had the same outcome. Let go of an alternate ending because you cannot alter the past.
  3. This is a voluntary thing, which is great because even if the offender NEVER asks for your forgiveness you can still go through the process. Since forgiveness is voluntary, you are the only one with the power to forgive. You can initiate forgiveness without the offender requesting your forgiveness or ever knowing. It’s all in your hands to do as you choose.
  4. Give yourself some grace and extend a little forgiveness to yourself too. So you have a moment when you forget you are forgiving the person and you blackout on them for what they did. Don’t dwell on it, press reset and go back to ‘Start.’ Part of the human experience means we have emotions and emotions can sometimes be all over the place.
  5. I can’t stress enough–this is a process. People can tell you to stop replaying the pain and just get over it, but they aren’t with you in those moments when something triggers your pain. If you continue with the process then those triggers stop coming so frequently. Endure the process.
  6. Forgiveness is an act of faith in many cases. The proper apology has not been extended. True understanding of their actions has not been gained. A promise has not been made to change and avoid the same action again. Remorse is missing. The offender may not take ownership of the offense and may not care to undo the damage, so it’s on you squarely to forgive. I know that sounds completely unfair. You were the one that was hurt and now you have to deal with forgiving too. Remember you are forgiving for yourself. You have the keys to let yourself out of your own personal prison called “Unforgiveness.”
  7. Start with where you are today. Don’t wait until you get to a better place emotionally or when you aren’t as hurt. Don’t put off ‘til tomorrow what you can do today. And you absolutely have no control of what might happen from one moment to the next. Life is precious, fleeting and unpredictable.
  8. So you aren’t in the place of extending open arms. That’s just fine. Set a time to deal with the hurt. Allow yourself to replay the event one last time. Feel the hurt and pain. Then release them.
  9. Write a letter to them explaining all of your feelings, emotions and thoughts. You have a captive “audience” so share all you wish they knew and could hear from you.

I’d like to encourage you to start the process today and live a life free of the toxic, negative emotions that unforgiveness breeds. There is peace in forgiving. You are no longer chained to that place of hurt.