Today is the 1 year anniversary of our summit of Island Peak (6189m) a mountain in the Himalayas, which we climbed in preparation for the higher camps on Everest. Reminiscing on the climb and the dramatic events which unfolded over the next few days made me pick up my journals so I could remember what I was thinking and feeling during those tumultuous days.
After my Keynote talk, tailored to the theme “Crisis Management”, for the French South African Chamber of Commerce last week, one of the questions that was asked of me was what coping mechanism or tools I have that help me deal with the human side of climbing. In my words, I switch the vulnerable, emotional human side off, and become more mechanical in order to deal with the challenges of climbing. This is probably why my team mates call me the “Lara Croft” of the hills. In terms of a mechanism, or technique however, my answer involved the keeping of journals.
My journals have taken many forms on the past climbs, many of them just scraps of paper on which I scribble details of the day, thoughts, feelings, and sometimes even poetry. I often tear pages out of a larger diary when climbing to camps away from base camp, in order to carry as little as possible. We inevitably have rest days on mountains, and on these days I spend time writing in my journals.
Browsing through them made me ponder on the value of Journaling your Journey. For me much of the value as been in the chronicling of the journey – the dates, times, and places – more of a data collection process. However, I had also from time to time made some honest declarations. For example, in 2003 on a trip to Everest Base Camp, I acknowledged the “drawing power” Everest had on me, not knowing I would be back 12 years later trying to climb. On Denali (6194m and the highest in North America) I disclosed that “I tasted fear in my mouth all day”. Perhaps “Lara Croft” has a more human side to herself after all?
On returning from Everest in 2015, I started seeing a Life Coach, and I distinctly remember her encouraging me to keep a journal “to hold your pain”.
The link between the two journals, one in the mountain, and one in the struggles of life is clear – they are both a storage unit for the inner experiences, fears, pains, and emotions that one otherwise may simply ignore in the process of achieving a goal.
Thinking about this in context of two personality types – known by the Insights Discovery Test as the “Fiery Red” (Me) and the “Earth green” brought another interesting context to journaling. The Red and Green personalities are the polar opposites. Reds are focused on achieving goals, at time despite the human element, and Greens are focused on the human element. Being quite a strong RED person, I can acknowledge that the focus on achievement of goals has been not only in spite of other human elements, but in fact, in spite of my own human element at times. This has served me well in the sphere of endurance sports, but clearly not in life. For Green type personalities, the danger is to focus purely on how people feel and therefore not on the task. Clearly, balance is necessary is both spheres and journaling can be a form of attaining such balance.
For the goal achieving type, journals are a way in which we can express ourselves in terms of a human element – thoughts, feelings, fears – in a safe space, in neutral territory. Acknowledging such emotions can be a source of strength, and an important part of self-awareness and development. So, besides writing down the goals and a task list accompanying it in order to achieve such goals, a journal can include the following:
- Acknowledge challenges faced
- Admit to weaknesses, fears, limiting beliefs and other emotions
- Express gratitude to those who assisted you in the process
- A platform for recognising your own achievements and not being only hard on yourself
For those “Earth Green” people, a journal can be less of the feelings, and more of the task/goal based details, although this would be uncomfortable for them:
- Write down the goals
- Detail the tasks involved in achieving the goals
- Give the process structure in terms of a to do list, not a “who do” list
For each of these opposite personality types doing this kind of journaling is out of their comfort zone, but an important process in striving for balance and personal development. One can view this as a self-coaching exercise and a more rounded out approach to achieving goals.
How are you going to Journal your Journey of life starting today?
Keynote Speaker and Performance Coach