Just ask anyone who’s ever succeeded.
As a boy in New Zealand, Edmund Hillary dreamed of becoming a mountain climber and as a young man, he set his sights on Mount Everest, at 29,029 feet, the world’s highest peak, and one that no one had ever successfully summited. His first attempt to conquer Everest in 1951 ended in failure. Defeated, he faced his investors, the London Explorers Club, who had lost all their money. He stood at the podium in front of a projected picture of Everest and said, “I will defeat you, Everest, because you cannot get any bigger–but I can.” Two years later, on his second attempt to defeat Everest, Hillary and his Sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay, reached the summit of Everest at 11:30 AM on May 29, 1953. The conquest of Everest was announced on the eve of Elizabeth II’s coronation, and the new queen knighted Hillary when he returned to Britain.
Edmund Hillary had the imagination to envision an outcome that had previously been viewed as impossible by a large percentage of the world’s population. Equally important, he was consumed by a drive to fulfill his vision that would possess him until he got big enough to accomplish that feat.
Hillary, who as a child was smaller and physically weaker than his peers literally got bigger and grew to be six feet five inches in height by the time that he was out of high school. But it wasn’t his physical growth that enabled him to fulfill his dream, but the growth of his determination and his capacity to embody his commitment.
While all significant achievements require great heart for their fulfillment, most do not require an Everest-sized commitment. They often, however, require a willingness to challenge the outer or inner voices that tell us not to even bother trying, giving us a wide range of reasons and justifications to talk us out of “going for the gold”.
In the realm of relationships, the “gold” is the experience of a committed partnership that provides a haven of love, trust and support in which both partners experience an ongoing ascendance towards increasingly greater fulfillment, self-realization, and contribution.
Many of us possess doubts and fears that such a lofty goal is unattainable. Feelings of unworthiness, inadequacy, shame, or undeservedness can override our deepest desires creating a justification to reduce or even eliminate our vision of what we truly long for in our lives. There are always obstacles between ourselves and the realization of our dreams, most of which seem to be external, yet the biggest obstacles are our internal limiting beliefs and expectations that “protect” us from taking risks that could result in failure and disappointment.
We’ve all heard that relationships require a lot of work, but rarely do we hear much about what the nature of that work actually is. Contrary to popular belief, it ‘s generally less about and your partner working on your relationship together, and more about each of you doing the inner work that you need to do in order to manage your protective, fear-based beliefs that keep you from giving a whole-hearted effort to the fulfillment of the vision of your deepest desires.
Doing so involves the cultivation of qualities such as courage, imagination, intentionality, and perseverance, among other things. Focusing on strengthening of the traits that can promote the development of our character, rather than continuing a preoccupation with the reasons why we are incapable or unqualified to fulfill our dreams can be the most direct path to success.
See if you can think of something in your life that you accomplished that at a former point you believed was out of your reach and impossible for you to ever achieve. Perhaps it was a physical or sports-related feat. Perhaps it was getting a degree or diploma. Or becoming the kind of parent that you really wanted to be but feared that you were unable to be. Or forgiving someone that you believed you could never forgive. Then try to remember how certain you were that there was no way that you could ever do this, but somehow, you did.
Even when we’re positive of our inability to succeed at something, we can be wrong. The intensity of our efforts is directly linked to the degree to which we are willing to be honest we are with ourselves in regard to how important the fulfillment of our desire is to us.
Another component in this process is support. Frequently, our belief that we can’t accomplish something doesn’t take into account the support factor. Hillary made it to the top but he didn’t do it alone. He had an enormous amount of support that was an essential ingredient in his success. He attracted this support to his project by affirming his confidence and his vision with such clarity, that it became almost irresistible to the many members of his team.
There are some things that are more painful than failing. One of them is to fail to make the effort that we need to make in order to find out whether it is possible for us to succeed. In her ground-breaking book, The Five Top Regrets of the Dying, Bronnie Ware who spent a great many hours caring for people in the final stages of their lives reveals that the regrets of most of those with whom she spoke with had to do with things that that didn’t do, chances that they didn’t take, opportunities that they didn’t accept, rather than things that they had done that they wished they hadn’t.
Each time that we challenge the internal voice or the external voices that try to discourage us from owning and affirming the legitimacy of our dreams, and step towards them rather than invalidate them, we grow in courage, resourcefulness, and self-respect, whether we succeed or fail. Another term for failure is “ learning experience”, and as every successful person will tell you, we need to have them in order to succeed. Fortunately, there are usually plenty of opportunities to learn on the way to the summit.