Bucket lists can serve many purposes beyond “what I want to do before I kick the bucket,” which is its traditional meaning. I have used my bucket list for a variety of purposes. For example, to add some extra fun into my life, to hold myself accountable to my goals, and lastly, to challenge myself to reach new heights.
One year, I took this quite literally. I put summitting Mount Kilimanjaro, the world’s tallest free-standing mountain, on my bucket list. Mind you, I’ve never climbed a mountain before. Not even a tiny, tiny, little mountain. But, alas, go big or go home I always say.
The key to success with any goal is proper preparation. If you are anything like me, you overdo it with any task you attempt. So, there I was at the gym sweating like crazy five days a week for six months. I was determined I was going to be ready for anything that the mountain had in store for me. I built up my cardio strength so I was ready for the ascent, along with many hours on the Stairmaster so my legs wouldn’t get tired on the climb. I also endlessly strength-trained so that I could make it down the mountain in decent shape as well.
When you are leaving the country for three weeks to climb a large mountain word gets out. And you know the word is out. Everyone is going to know if you made it up the mountain or if you weren’t strong enough to make it to the top. Talk about pressure! Add that to the mix of challenges here.
At first sight, it was beautiful. Up close, it was huge! We started at a low elevation and to my dismay within the first five minutes, I was gasping for air! This was not a good sign! If I was struggling already, what did this have to say about my ability to make eight more days? What was I going to tell everyone – I failed on day one?
Soon though, thankfully I got into a rhythm and things got, well, I’m not going to say easier, but more doable. I quickly forgot about the friends at home and my focus solely became the mountain and supporting my climbing companions.
Spoiler alert: I MADE IT TO THE TOP!
What I learned in that nine days on that mountain has since carried me through the hardest of challenges of my life.
First, I learned how important it is to support each other. If one person is struggling, it’s imperative to jump in and help. We all have our moments – on the mountain and in life. If we work together, we can all make it.
Second, all that physical training helped me dearly with just 50% of the ascent and descent. The rest was all mental strength. If I didn’t keep myself mentally strong on the mountain, despite being so physically fit, I would have never made it. I’ve found this to be the same on subsequent challenges I’ve encountered in life. All the preparation in the world isn’t enough if you don’t get yourself in a good mental place for the task at hand.
Lastly, bucket list items are great for so many things. In this case, every time I come against a challenge, and there has been many since, I always think back and say to myself, “if I can climb the world’s tallest free-standing mountain with no experience, I can do this too.” I can’t tell you how many projects, presentations, and life challenges this has gotten me through.
So call it your bucket list, resolutions, goals for the year or whatever suits your fancy, but there really is something to them. They push you to not only achieve new heights, but ones that you can carry with you your entire life. If you haven’t created one yet, I encourage you to give yourself a few bucket list challenges.