The following is a guest blog written by my friend Dan Galperin at The Man Power Project (www.manpowerproject.com). It is a wonderful essay bridging the month of January, when many of us focus on our goals, and February, the Valentine month, where many of us think of our loved ones.
Recently I saw the movie called “Everest” about the 1996 climbing disaster in which 12 people died, including two expedition leaders. The story was also chronicled in the book Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, who was on the expedition and was fortunate enough to reach the summit and get back home to tell the story.
One of the team members, Beck Weathers, a confident Texan who aimed to reach “The 7 Summits,” almost lost his life. He described himself as obsessed with work and climbing mountains, which left little room in his life for his family. Weathers was left for dead in a hypothermic coma for fifteen hours in “the death zone” but miraculously survived.
Upon rescue, he lost his nose and the majority of both hands to frostbite. “If you can’t learn something from dying, then you are definitely a slow learner,” he reflected years later. “When you know you are going to die, you think about the people you really care about. I used to always live in the future. I’d set a goal, achieve the goal, set another goal. Today, I live in the present and it’s a lot more peaceful. Life is simply better when you get to the point where you are comfortable in your own skin and not trying to define yourself by achievements alone.”
Life can feel like climbing Everest, sometimes fun and sometimes arduous. The journey can be absolutely breathtaking when we remember what’s important, but it can be harrowing if we lose our way.
Many of us approach our lives with the end in mind and forget to enjoy the journey with the ones who matter most. Achievement can be rewarding and fulfilling, as long as what you really care about is not sacrificed. Achieving to impress others or to validate yourself might lead you off a cliff. But pure inspired achievement sends ripples of positivity out to others. Reaching that summit feels pretty damn good.
I do believe in pushing limits, seeing how far we can go and how much we are capable of. There is something beautiful in following your inspiration no matter how daunting or crazy it may seem. When you push the limits for the right reasons, amazing things can unfold.
When you lay dying, whether on the inhospitable terrain of Everest or in a comfortable bed surrounded by loved ones at an advanced age, your only regrets will be the lost opportunities to love and connect to others, not the achievements left undone.
The only thing that will matter is this: Are you proud of the life that you lived? Truly happy at how you spent your time and energy? Did you make a meaningful difference to other people? Did you give and receive love? Did you keep your heart open to what was wonderful about life or did you get wrapped up in trivialities? Did you stand at the top of your own personal Everest with people you love and enjoy the beauty of it all?
If you did, then you achieved something truly special.