Back in July my friend Leon took me on a hike up the Cheviot Hills.
I wasn’t expecting to cover 15 miles with river crossings and rock climbing but it was an invigorating experience.
The Cheviot Hills straddle the border between Northumberland and Scotland, a particularly beautiful part of the UK.
The highest summit is The Cheviot at an elevation of 815m, which is a touch under the height of the Burj Khalifa.
Right at the start there was a very steep climb which made me want to quit.
We were going to circle round to The Cheviot over smaller hills and through the valley before attempting the summit, so this wasn't even the hardest part.
I was thinking "if it's this hard now, how can I possibly complete the hike?"
"Maybe I should say something and go back to the car, rather than embarrass myself?"
After entertaining those thoughts for a moment, I reflected on how ridiculous it would be to quit at the beginning.
Leon has a lot of experience and I knew he wouldn't push me beyond my limits. Not only that, but I could see that it wasn't easy for him either.
I realised that this kind of hike goes through phases:
- Where it's brutally hard and unrelenting;
- Where it's relatively easy and relaxed;
- Where you are rewarded for the hard work with incredible scenery.
I was feeling exhausted before we got to the summit, but I kept pushing because I knew that after a certain point things couldn't feel much worse than they already did.
At some point it becomes a question of accepting that it will be hard and you have to tune out the thoughts that are telling you to quit.
You can't even quit if you want to, there's no way but to go over the hills or round them. The only option if you're really in trouble is to call in a rescue team.
Leon kept telling me that the summit was just ahead of us, which was funny because I recognised that trick. I do the same thing with personal training clients, telling them they have one more set left (and then giving them more to do).
Somehow it always feels easier to give your best efforts when you know you're nearly finished.
It struck me that there's a lot in common with this experience and the experience of starting a fitness journey (or starting a business):
- Feeling overwhelmed at the start.
- Phases of hard work, maintenance, and enjoying the rewards.
- Delayed gratification.
- Frontloading the hard work (like skill acquisition and resource gathering).
- Overcoming the urge to quit.
While everyone is trying to sell you the easy solution to dieting or making six-figures online, I encourage you to embrace the climb.
Recognise that the journey will often feel impossibly hard and unrewarding, but it will pay off just beyond the point where your mind wants you to go.
Learn to ignore the voice inside that tells you to quit before you've really tried.