It had been an entire year of planning and not a day went by where I hadn’t thought about it at one point or another. I had played this day out in my head for an entire year. I anticipated it to be one of the most memorable days in my life and my anticipation did not disappoint. I had never worked so hard toward a goal. This was my second attempt at reaching the summit of Big Slide Mountain in the High Peaks Region of the Adirondack State Park.
About 500 feet from the summit I could not walk any further and I sat down to rest on a rock face. I had nothing left in my tank, I was beyond fatigued, I had never pushed my body this hard before but I could just make out the summit in the distance. It was glorious. It was everything I had expected. I knew full well that when we had reached the summit I would have met my goal but the reality was that I was only half way there. If I didn’t return back to the truck by dark we would be in a world of trouble. Onward and upward we made our way to the summit. What a magnificent view. The mere sight brought me to tears let alone the feeling of accomplishment. There were more than a couple times where I sincerely didn’t think I’d make it back alive but as we limped back to the Jeep I had already forgotten all the negative thoughts that ran through my head. I had met my goal. I had gone from a 400 pound crippled to an adventurer that Bear Grylls himself would be jealous of. I was on top of the world. Mission accomplished!
As we traveled back home I started to feel a little disappointed. It had nothing to do with my expectations of the trip but I couldn’t stop thinking how making it to the summit was a sort of end to my journey and my goal. I still weighed close to 300 but I had shed almost 100 pounds and although I was still in a leg brace I was getting stronger and fitter by the day. After I got home and recovered a bit I started posting before and after photos of myself. They were actually quite impressive. I mean, I had seen some significant changes and my life was not even close to what it was just one short year ago. I was so tunneled in on climbing that mountain that it consumed me and I couldn’t see over the mountain. Maybe that was a good thing at the time. Looking back, I can see that the choices I made in days following that climb were perhaps the most critical choices I have made in my life. I could have went one of two ways:
I had lost 100 pounds, I had beaten down some giant addictions, I had recovered my love for life, and most of all, I was happy. I could have rested right there and got comfortable and no one would have held it against me. I was a changed man and it felt good. Mission accomplished!
I had lost 100 pounds, I had beaten down some giant addictions, I had recovered my love for life, and most of all, I was happy. I saw the impossible become possible right before my very eyes. If it’s possible to lose 100, is it possible to lose 200? If I can climb a mountain could I finish a Tough Mudder? What would it take to hike a section of the Appalachian Trail? What could I set out to do that gave me the same drive and motivation as Big Slide?
Was this amazing accomplishment the end of something great or the beginning of something even better? I remember making a conscious decision to never reach a goal without having the next one set. The bigger the better! Even as I sit here today I am hungry for a Leadville race and even hungrier for an Ironman Placid. Both of these things are impossible at the moment but I am more than willing to work my tail off to see impossible can become possible.
So here’s what I learned about before and after photos. If you do it right, there are no such things. The before photo changes daily as does the after. “Before and afters” only work if the journey has a destination. I have no interest in being on that journey. My journey gets reset every time I wake up. The only way my journey ends is if I don’t wake up in the morning. Here’s the short version of how it works. I strive to be better than I was yesterday. Sometimes I’m successful and sometimes I’m not. That’s not really important. The important thing is that every morning I wake up and look in the mirror and I see my “before picture” and I have no idea what my “after” picture will look like but I will fight like crazy to be better than my picture in the mirror. When I submitted to the fact that I will get up and fight to be better than I was yesterday and regardless of the stumbles I will do it all again tomorrow, that is when things started to click and forward momentum started to build. This whole idea of the mirror thing has little to do with the physical and more to do with the emotional and spiritual. If it is a genuine journey it is holistic and you grow as a complete person.
At the end of the day everyone loves a sweet before and after photo and I get that but I just can’t stop my brain from shifting the “after” over to the left to cover up the before and then replacing the “after” with a question mark. That, to me, is pretty powerful and it echoes the fact that impossible is just a word.
The next two posts that I publish will deal with more ideas on the “before and after” photos. I wrote a post a while back that has to do with goal setting that is a crucial piece to my shift in thinking. Here’s the link…….
I also just wanted to take a moment to thank all of you for your kind emails and words of encouragement. I can’t believe how many strangers reach out to me and it makes us all part of a really cool community. Definitely connect with me on Facebook (click here) as that is where I spend most of my social media time. Also, I post most of my food on Instagram and you do not need an account to look at my page. (click here)
“Eat plants, move your body. All ya got to do is a little more than ya did yesterday😉 ”
Until next time,