It came to me while sitting in the Himalayas with a group of 14 people who were all being challenged to rise up to a new self-awareness that the process of personal change and life enhancement needed to be far more holistic. I saw those 14 people struggling at different points of the life cycle and it began to dawn on me that a new model of self-awareness needed to be created.
That was 20 years ago. Since then I spent a huge amount of time wondering and exploring the possibilities of a new paradigms in human development that made business go better and life smoother. My objective was to prevent calamity, disaster and humbling circumstances being the only motive to question the process we apply to life.
Going back to that trip in the Himalayas some 20 years ago there were nine hills to climb and descend on the way up to the base camp of Mount Everest. Each hill was higher than the next, and often steeper. The skills that helped an individual get over the first hill were of very little value in going over the second and so on. This reminds me of life itself. What gets us from the age of 20 to 25 is a very little value getting us from 25 to 30 years old. What gets us to 35 years old is very little value getting us to 45 years old. It’s not really about age. It’s about the steepness of the curve of life.
If you are in a business and you are aged 25 years old you will use a huge amount of energy and possibly even time to get you through the day and to your goals. At the age of 35 you can’t use that amount of energy because life has become more complicated and the work you’re doing has certainly become more sophisticated. Very rarely does life present a lesser responsibility or degree of complexity as time goes on. Even a motor mechanic will work on more sophisticated cars as they age. That’s how they earn more money and gain more opportunities.
So on the trek it was necessary to introduce a relearning program at the base of each hill where we slept for the evening and prepared for the day ahead. I worked out that there were seven separate topics that needed to be addressed in order to enable somebody to let go of what they had utilised yesterday and implement a new process for today.
1. Discard… The memory of yesterday can, if it’s not complimentary, cloud the possibilities of today. Let’s say a person wakes up on a trek with sore legs and remembers the pain of yesterday and takes this memory into the beginning of a very hard day ahead. Obviously, it doesn’t give them a great foundation to enjoy the day but more importantly as the day begins to challenge them they will, rather than focus on the challenge, remember the past and be torn down by it. So each and every night we went back over the day we had just experienced and cleared any perception that there was anything more than balance, symmetry, proportion and order. In other words, we created a memory of the day gone by that was inspirational and beautiful even when it had been tough going for some. Until we can clear the past of any sense of failure, doubt, uncertainty, poverty or ingratitude the future is doomed to be much harder than it needs to be. So this is the first step in overcoming doubt and getting back on track.
2. Cellular… The mind is not the only place where memory is stored. If you bring your hand to a burning flame your body remembers the time where you burnt yourself and automatically triggers the autonomic nervous system to pull away from the flame. So, failure, pain, anger, disappointment, frustration, insecurity, fear and guilt are stored physically in your body as well as mentally. Therefore, on the trek it was necessary to clear the body of its memory of the day gone by and create in its place a good feeling. Now some people wanted to drink alcohol on the trek to create this good memory of the day gone by but instead I insisted on drinking certain detoxing compounds that refreshed the body at a cellular level before celebrating the day with a spectacular meal, some meditation, a few light-hearted stories and of course a warm open fire before bed. In this way the body was given a chance to create a new memory and allow any emotions that were stored from the day gone by to go down the toilet along with the acid from exertion.
3. Environment… Spatial factors influence a person’s mind and body more than any other single factor and yet we quite often ignore its impact. Each day on the trek it was key to create an awareness of a new environmental consideration that lifted the mindset of people and help them recognise that they were in a new day. I pointed out the different trees, shrubs, animals, Skyline, mountains and the way the new altitude was creating a new beauty. We all woke at sunrise and celebrated the new day by checking the weather and the sky. These were not just about education they were about creating a new template, fresh eyes, clear mind and an enthusiasm for the day ahead that was in excess of the day gone by. I insisted on clean clothes, clean boots, a simple bath and healthy hygiene each day and emphasise the importance of this more and more as the altitude got higher and higher. This is a key element in getting back on track when, doubt has overwhelmed us and we have lost a sense of newness. Changing our environment is a key consideration acknowledging that the past is gone and a new day has arrived.
4. Mind… When we shrink into doubt our values become a roulette wheel of possibilities. We spin the wheel and whatever gives us a sense of satisfaction becomes our highest and most important priority. A great example of this on trek is a blister on the foot. A person may have the goal of reaching the top of the highest trekking peak in the world and yet, if they wake in the morning with a blister on the toe, their objective and goal will become a toe. That toe will become their primary point of focus and it will create a new motivation for the whole journey. Suddenly a person who was committed and focused on their highest value will be focused and committed to the lowest and lose all motivation and inspiration to proceed. They will become depressed, they will want to break routine, they will lose energy, they will become belligerent and angry. Because when we work on our lowest priorities we sabotage our highest priorities to get us back on track. There is nothing I can do about a blister. I put tape and tried to minimise the discomfort but a blister on a toe on a trek is going to be annoying. If I slammed their finger with a hammer it would distract their attention from the big toe. But it is still not focused on their highest value which is trekking to the highest trekking peak in the world. It becomes my responsibility to be so annoying and intrusive on their thought process to act like that hammer, to cause them distraction and more their focus up from their toe to their highest value on a minute by minute basis until they re consolidate their vision and eliminate their doubt.
5. Vision… The human spirit is a vision. All human eyes are turned to the future. This is nature at its best. A beaver will prepare six months in advance of a bad winter. It is nature’s instinct to protect its species by causing us to focus on the future. The teacher who claims that it is wise to focus on the present moment is doing the work of a healer and they are correct because when something goes wrong with the map of the future is wise to draw our focus down to the map of the present to regain our strength so we can once again focus on the future. It is a temporary place this focus on the present. It is not realistic for any business person, athlete, partner or friend to focus on the present as the primary driver of their life. And so, there are different levels of vision. The most impulsive is the shortest timeframe ahead. As we climbed these hills people would begin to falter. Those who faltered first were those who focused on the future as an escape plan for the present. Let me explain: as the discomfort of walking up on long eight hour Hill becomes more intense there are those who focus on getting to the top in order to escape the pain of being halfway up. This doesn’t work. Instead, as the intensity grows I encouraged people on the trek to remember that every step they took was getting them one step closer to the top. This is called linking. It is the key to success in all seven areas of life. People continually try to create fantasy visions of a place far in the distance that gets them out of the discomfort of being where they are right now. Like a new job. Like a new relationship. Like a new religion. Like a new doctor. Like a new party. These are ways to escape the present that people who do not have a willingness to hurt a little use to escape every nuance of pain they feel. But it doesn’t work. It causes the pain to grow. Pain draws us to the moment and therefore it is fantastic as long as we link that pain to our vision we will remain inspired and motivated to work our way step-by-step to the top. Every person on Himalayan trek learns this by necessity. Those who are trying to pray for the end of the hill in order to escape pain end up hurting more. So it is in life and therefore in the back on track program an essential ingredient of life’s mastery to gain clarity of vision that is engaging and motivating and then learn how to link whatever we are doing to that vision. This is the blend of East meets West.
6. Self talk… We chat to ourselves all day. That chatter results in our actions and reactions to the circumstances we are in. Unfortunately, much of that chatter is silent to our conscious mind but incredibly loud to our subconscious. At the bottom of a hill each and every individual is having a conversation with themselves about the day ahead. Some express that conversation to others and I hear it “I don’t think I’m going to make it” or “I’m so looking forward to today” it ironic that people express these internal dialogues with others in order to validate them. The person who expresses the negativity of I don’t think I’m going to make it, is actually trying to bring others back to their state of mind. The person who expresses the positive I’m so looking forward to today, is trying to bring others up to their state of elation about the day ahead. We recruit others to validate our self talk. We are very insecure about this self talk. Sometimes we say the opposite to our internal dialogue. For example: bravado usually is expressed to overcome insecurity. When it comes to self talk I can teach people more about human psychology than they would learn in a five-year university degree in a single day. And there is no greater place to witness this learning than on a trek in the Himalayas of Nepal. Very rarely, what people say is what’s really going on inside. What is really going on inside is demonstrated by the actions of that individual. One guy, who was of little bit of a wild card in the group, was wildly flirtatious with a few of the ladies and yet, when the challenges became confronting, he would draw back into himself almost with anger. My job on these treks is to encourage a more honest dialogue internally for people so that they can speak to themselves as a friend, with encouragement, with love and most importantly, without doubt. For this to happen the first step of this program, discard, needs to be accomplished.
So you can see that it’s a loop. It’s a continuous loop. Each day on a trek in Nepal we go up a hill and down the other side. Metaphorically that might be a whole year in a person’s life going up and then having the easy going down. But each hill, whether it’s a physical experience like in the Himalayas, or a business experience, or a relationship experience is an opportunity to go through the whole back on track process and refresh ourselves. Whether it’s a day, a week, a year or 10 years it doesn’t matter. The important thing is that we proactively trigger learning and development rather than wait for calamity, disasters or humbling circum-stances to bring our attention to the fact that we have lost the focus and have become driven by a blister on a toe in a shoe.
Live with spirit