May 21 2016 – 6 AM – Location: The Grouse Grind
The air was brisk, the sky was dark, and the city was asleep.
Each step I take, I can hear the rocks crunching against my shoes and see my mouth puffing out clouds of smoke.
The world is silent, but yet my adrenaline flows.
I reach the base of the mountain - cold but excited.
Standing in the way of me and my adventure is a chain linked fence. A sign on the fence says “Open at 6:15 AM.” I must wait to begin, but better early than late.
I look around and see a few sleepy strangers and one brave friend beside me. The early bird gets the worms.
My mission – hike 2.9 kilometers up a mountain, climbing up 2,830 steps. In other words, conquer Mother Nature’s Stairmaster to reach the peak of Vancouver.
How did I get here? Let me rewind.
Jan 2016 – Some early hour – Location: My office
Lightning strikes! Eureka! Sitting alone in my office a light bulb goes off in my head.
I have come to the realization that life is more exciting when I seek new experiences.
Earth shattering insight? Obviously not. But I was not always this wise.
Just a few years ago, I spent most of my money on material things. My methodology when deciding what to spend my money on was simple, compare the price of an experience to the price of a material item. The material item would win, most of the time. This is because in my mind, buying something material would leave me with something tangible whereas an experience was immeasurable.
I found two things wrong with this strategy.
1. Material items don’t bring lasting happiness
Buying a new shiny toy got me excited for a few weeks at most. After the initial surge in happiness, this “new” toy became my new norm. It was no longer new or exciting. My happiness level was jogging on what scientists call the Hedonic Treadmill. Essentially, our happiness levels quickly return to normal after a surge.
Buying material items is like drinking coffee, you get an initial boost of happiness or energy but then quickly hit a happiness or energy slump.
2. Material items are comparable
It’s hard to stop comparing what you have with what others have. Comparing material items is a great way to bounce your happiness level up and down like a yo-yo. No matter how much money you spend on an item, someone will always spend more. It’s a lose-lose battle.
According to Thomas J Stanley, author of Stop Acting Rich: And Start Living Like A Real Millionaire, one of the quickest ways to improve your happiness levels is to move to a neighbourhood where you make the most money. But be careful, the opposite is also true - a quick way to become unhappier is to move into a neighbourhood where you are the poorest.
In my light bulb moment, I realized that I should spend more money on experiences because experiences won’t go out of style or depreciate over time.
Successfully completing the Grouse Grind was an experience I wanted... badly.
May 20, 2016 – 8 PM – Location: My kitchen
The voices of fear have finally come. I was waiting for them to arrive all day. Now I can finally hear them whispering in my mind:
“You aren't going to make it”
“You will only disappoint yourself”
“What if you get injured halfway up?”
“What if you run out of water?”
The climb that I have been looking forward to for a few months almost didn’t happen. That is because the night before the climb, FEAR reared its ugly head.
FEAR in this case is also known as negative self-talk.
We all have negative self-talk. This is why so many of us quit before we even start.
Negative self-talk happens at the worse possible times:
· On your wedding day
· Before a job interview
· Before you ask someone out for a date
· Upon waking up
· Before going to sleep
· Before you go to the gym
But understand this – Negative self-talk is so predictable. Wait long enough and sit quietly enough and you will hear it.
I knew that my negative self-talk was coming. It always does. It’s not as tricky as it thinks it is.
Once you learn its patterns, you can learn how to defeat it.
Knowing that my negative self-talk would eventually try to talk me out of climbing 2,800 feet - I got proactive. I made it so I had no choice but to go on the climb.
May 20, 2016 – Before 8 PM – Location: Work and Home
“I am planning to do the Grind tomorrow morning at 6 AM, want to come?”
One of the best ways to force yourself to do something is to put into effect, “Avoidance of Shame.”
Simply put, I told as many people as I needed to in order to make me feel shame if I didn’t complete the Grind.
I also got the commitment of a friend to meet me at the base of the mountain at 6 AM. Personally, I hate letting people down so this was a great insurance policy for motivating myself to go.
Finally, I asked my friend to text me in the morning at 5 AM to make sure everything goes as planned. Even if my friend bails on me, that text message gets me out of bed.
“It’s time for me to get proactive”
As soon as I got home from work, I implemented part two of my plan.
I packed in my knapsack my water bottle, wallet, headphones, and car keys.
I laid on my bedroom floor my shorts, t-shirt and socks right where my feet touch the ground when I get out of bed in the morning.
I pulled out a frying pan and placed it on my stove, in preparation to cook eggs for breakfast.
Was this overkill? Absolutely.
But did it work? Yes.
The reason this works is because I short circuited my own habits that I am used to in the morning. It became a hassle for me not to get dressed in the morning and not to eat my eggs. It would also be a lot of work to unpack my knapsack and dump out my water bottle. In simple terms, it became easier for me to get into my car and drive to the mountain then not too.
This is how I defeated my own negative self-talk and got my butt to the mountain.
Using this pattern, you can also win the battle against your own mind.
May 21, 2016 – 7 AM – Location: On the top of Grouse Mountain
As I sit here on top of the mountain and write this blog, I wonder to myself, “Was all that work to get here worth it?”
You tell me…