Spiders…the last straw!

Tanzinia January 2019, the sun’s beating through the windows of our mini van as we lurch from side to side on the small mountainous roads. It’s taken 4 hours to reach the Lemosho route, our starting point for an 8 day trek to the summit of the world’s highest freestanding mountain, Kilimanjaro.

I’ve almost finished my water for the day and I’m fretting. I’ve got a headache coming on and we haven’t even started on the mountain. By the time we pile out of the van and put on our packs, I’m dosing myself on Panadol.

Photos snapped, flags waved and high fives all round, we find the path and take our first steps on what is meant to be the easiest day of our climb. Underfoot the dirt is firm, well trodden and stretching dauntingly upwards towards the forest canopy. As we disappear into the lush rainforest I’m already gasping.

Monkey’s screech and my lungs scream for air. The boys easy chatter mixes with football banter while silently I’m getting those deep breathes in. I fake a big smile and nod, ‘nothing to see here’, and turn away, as if admiring the view.

Soon my sweat soaked shirt is a cold reminder that the sun is disappearing and dusk is creeping in. Just a few more steps and we we breach the hill where little orange dome tents glow in the forest, lanterns peek through the trees and our team are there welcoming us with big toothy smiles.  I celebrate with the rest, but the smile doesn’t reach my eyes.

Making an excuse to escape, I retreat to the tent.

Head-torch on, I pull the zipper down as a couple of spiders make their move, diving in the tent with me. Frozen and panicking, I forget my pounding head and grab the nearest solid object, my new book, staining the white cover of ‘Eleanor Oliphent is Perfectly Fine’ with spider splatter. And that’s the tipping point.

Tears threaten as I imagine myself doing this for another seven days.

What was I thinking?

I’m not going to make it…

But what I didn’t know was…

I was judging myself based on the strength, skills and mindset of day one. That judgement assumed zero growth in the days that followed, and of course made me feel miserable, limited and like giving up before I started.

But it taught me one of the my most significant lessons..

The you of today will not be the you who succeeds tomorrow 

Which means you can STOP judging yourself capable or not right now, and believe that the power of possibility lies within you.

The power of possibility

When you say yes to adventure, you say yes to change, growth and new versions of yourself evolving. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I said yes to Kilimanjaro, because I wanted to find out what I was made of, to test my limits and push through barriers.

So it’s funny that when you meet those limits, you bring your old belief systems out to deal with them. For me it was

  • I’m not strong enough
  • I can’t breathe up here
  • I’m not fit enough

I had an arsenal of judgements about who I was and what I was capable of, and chances are you’ll be the same.  Only as the adventure unfolds do you start to see these shift and be replaced with new ways of thinking. Which is why the person who steps into the adventure is not the same person who comes out the other side.

And it’s this transformation that so powerful.

Over the coming days on the mountain I made changes to my mindset, my expectations and actions.

  • I focused on being present, mindful and calm in the moment
  • I practised gratitude, for the small things like hot food, dry bedding and warm hugs
  • I gave myself permission to be real, vulnerable and available
  • And I never had my head-torch on while unzipping the tent again!!

We all have our mountains

We all have our mountains, so whatever you set out to climb, whether it’s launching a course, writing a book or creating a podcast, you’ll be a different person stepping out the other side of that experience. Your skills, fears and knowledge will all evolve as you live the experience. And it’s this change, challenge and growth that actually creates the new, more confident you.

A you that believes in the power of your own possibility.