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Stories from Summits: 7 life lessons that helped me to BREAKFREE

Saahil Mehta - Strategic Decluttering Explorer focussed on bringing diamond-grade clarity to ambitious leaders to scale their summit faster.

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Saahil Mehta - Decluttering Coach - Stories from Summits

“Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit is the answer to the mystery why we climb.” -Greg Child

I have always enjoyed scaling mountains and after having climbed the tallest mountain in Africa – Kilimanjaro, the tallest in Europe – Elbrus, going up to Kala Patthar, a little higher than the base of Mount Everest and finally summiting a 20,000 foot plus technical mountain in Peru, South America, I bring to you some inspiring stories which will help you scale your summit faster. 

The first lesson I learnt was – Less is More. 

Earlier, I thought that this statement is just something that people say, it is not something I really believed in. Only after starting my quest to climb more and more mountains did I start believing this statement. When I climbed mountains, the weight which I carried in my bag or even the weight I carried around mentally, weighed me down, and slowed me down. Think about it the extra pair of pants, the extra pair of sunglasses, even that extra bar of soap is unnecessary weight which only slows you down. Especially when you are scaling a summit over days that extra 1 kilo, 2 kilos or even 5 kilos is just too much. 

So the moral of the story is to carry less things because the more weight you carry with you, the more time it is going to take to scale that summit. This is not just for the physical weight you carry it is also for the weight you carry around in your mind. The more weight you have in your mind the more it will weigh you down.  It is better to declutter your mind and remove all those unnecessary thoughts and stresses that might create a hindrance in  achieving your dreams and goals.

Want Vs Need?

Earlier I often used to say that I need a new pair of jeans or I need a vacation but I truly understood the difference between need and want when I was summiting Mount Kilimanjaro. I was scaling that mountain with five women and at that time we didn’t have any running water and were sleeping in tents in sleeping bags. So one night I asked these women what they were missing the most and all of them said that they were missing their kids. But I wanted to know what is the thing they were missing the most and the most common answers were a bed, running water and a warm room. That’s when I realized that all these things are necessities – or rather needs, and not the new pair of jeans or a vacation like I mentioned earlier. That’s when I decided to switch the word in my head, and always consciously introspect – do I need this or do I want this?

When was the last time you appreciated what you have in life? When you are scaling a summit and you are stripped away from all your luxuries, that’s when you truly come to appreciate what you have in life. That’s where I learned the true appreciation for the things that I have. So be grateful and learn the art of gratitude, only then you will learn the difference between your needs and wants and be grateful for everything you have been blessed with in this life. The key is to focus on what you have and not what you lack.

Assumptions are nothing but unsolicited fillers of the mind

When we were at Kala Patthar, the guide took us to a clinic to help us learn about altitude sickness. When we were climbing the summit in Nepal my family actually didn’t want us to go and at each point, during our trip, they called us repeatedly to know about our whereabouts. Once we were at the clinic to learn about altitude sickness, they called the lodge and when they were told that we were at the hospital, they got very worried. My parents then called my wife’s parents and even called my friend’s parents. They were actually panicking thinking that we should have never gone. 

Now all these thoughts were just fillers based on the foundation of fear in their minds. But in reality, we were just at the clinic learning about altitude sickness. When I got back to the lodge and called my dad back he really panicked and was so worried but I assured him that everything was fine. But the truth is, what he assumed earlier caused him a lot of pain. 

So my question to you is, how often are you assuming? How often are you filling in those blanks based on your experience or your learnings? And how often is it a more negative scenario versus a positive scenario because of the state of your mind?

Confronting difficult questions is essential 

So we’re on Elbrus, the tallest mountain in Europe and we’re five climbers, and here’s a hypothetical situation. Suddenly, someone gets really tired, they get altitude sickness, something is not right or they just need to go down. Do they go down alone? If they want someone to go down with them, who goes down with them? Do we send one of the guides down and then leave just one with us. How does this affect the rest of the group?  

Tough questions to answer, right? 

Not the kind of questions we want to answer at five thousand meters above sea level and that’s the exact reason why, as the team leader, I said, these are the conversations we’re going to have before we start our Summit. In our particular case we decided on whoever wanted a pair, they would pair up and then it didn’t matter which one from the pair would have a challenge, the other one has to go down with them should the need arise. 

So ask yourself, what can you do today, tomorrow, this week, with your team, your family, with your loved ones which can prevent having a very difficult scenario in the future by discussing it and deciding on it, now!

Mental Fuel > Physical Fuel

Even today, I remember the day of the summit climb on Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa. I hadn’t really slept that much the night before. I’m not sure why, but I just had poor sleep.  Coupled with that at high altitude, I just found it very difficult to eat. So even when we were having dinner, I could barely eat just a few things and you can imagine, at high altitude and climbing for hours and hours you’re burning tremendous amounts of calories and I wasn’t replenishing them. At a point just before we reached the summit, I was depleted of energy, I felt like I was going to fall. 

At this point there were two things that helped me, one is the physical fuel in the form of a gel pack that one of my fellow climbers had, that gave me a shot of caffeine and helped me physically. But the second thing that helped me was, the mental fuel. I kept telling myself one foot in front of the other, one foot in front of the other. In fact, they had a saying in Tanzania while we were walking up called – “Pole Pole” – it means just take it slow. Just keep going one step at a time. 

So are you giving the right fuel to your body and mind to reach your summit?

Let your higher purpose give you the strength

This is the story from Kala Patthar,in Nepal. On the day of the climb our guide told us that the clouds are covering the sky and we won’t be able to complete the climb today. But suddenly the sky got clear and our guide told us that we have a short window to complete the climb today. So we thought let’s just go for it because we don’t know how the weather is going to be tomorrow. So we start our ascend to get to the top. Now something strange happens while we’re going up, one of the guides says I need to go down. He started getting symptoms of altitude sickness.  Now mind you he lives at high altitude and he’s gone to Kala Patthar so many times, but that doesn’t mean one can do it again. So he goes down. 

We are left with one guy between 3 of us and we continue going up and then after some time my wife says, stop. Suddenly she just breaks down into tears and she says I can’t. She had a self-limiting belief. She says, I’m just depleted of energy, I’m so tired, I’m just mentally & physically drained. I can’t do it. At that point I said, sweetheart, It’s fine, let’s go down together. And she says no but this is your dream…you’ve been planning this trip for years, you go up. I’ll wait, I’ll go down but you must go up – this is your dream. I said, “no, honey, my dream has come true; we’ve come to this point together. We are 5,000 meters above sea level. It’s an amazing achievement. It doesn’t matter if I didn’t get to that final point. Let’s go down together.” 

And that’s where a switch happened in her mind. The self-limiting belief started to disappear because she switched her mind from, I can’t, to I can and I will, and where does she get this energy from? It wasn’t for herself. She was doing it for me. I get very emotional when I think about it. She removed that self-limiting belief with a higher purpose and we ended up getting to the top, to Kala Patthar. We got to sit next to one another, close, and watch the sunset on Mount Everest, one of the most beautiful sights we’ve ever seen, to watch the mountains turn gold. 

Think, what self-limiting belief is holding you back? How are you, going to switch your mindset from I can’t, to, I can and I will?

Self-Talk is more important than you think

Many times when I’m climbing the mountain the weather gets bad, and it is a steep climb sometimes. So we get those ice axes out and we’re going up the walls and our body is in pain and these little voices are chirping away, saying stop go down, why are you putting yourself through this? just go back to your comfort zone. 

But what is the other voice saying, what are your goals? What do you want to master? What do you want to overcome? What do you want to achieve?  

I understand that to reach those goals, to scale that Summit, you might have to endure some pain and it’s natural for the body and for the mind to protect you and say, no go back, go back to your comfort zone, but guess what? 

That feels like I’m being shackled. I’m being held prisoner. But all I want to be, is to BREAKFREE! That’s when I truly understood the statement, no pain, no gain. Because I knew once I overcame it, I would reach results that were beyond my imagination – to scale to the Summits of these various mountains and the ones that I will be scaling in the future as well. 

So the question to you is which of these two voices are you listening to? Is it the one that’s saying go back to your comfort zone. I like it here. I’m okay to not transform in Life 

OR 

Are you listening to the other one that says you are a go-getter, you are amazing…you are meant for greatness. Now go out there and do it because I believe in you and I know you believe in yourself, too.  Believe me, you can do it. 

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