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Monday, 07 October 2013 19:26

Everest Climb: Setting Goals is the Route to Mental Health

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Sean MooneySean MooneyI’m a tad reluctant to post this blog as it seems like cashing in on the back of someone’s else’s achievements. However, as this has never posed a major impediment in the past, why change the habits of a lifetime?

 

Conquering Mountains:

My Nephew, Sean Mooney, recently climbed Everest. To be more precise, he reached the summit on May 19th. Here’s a couple of interesting facts about Sean.

  1. Prior to the successful ascent he had never before climbed a mountain (apart from 1 week training in the Canadian Rockies where he claimed they did some ‘drill’s’ and didn’t climb anything worth talking about).
  2. He is scared of heights (Acrophobia) and had to overcome this fear to make the ascent (I found this one hard to believe too).
  3. He climbed Everest on the basis of a bet made with a guy (Micheal Balint) in work. “I’d love to climb Everest”; “Yeh, so, would a lot of people”;  “No, I’m serious. I really would like to do it”;  “Well, you never will. Get over yourself”.
  4. Through sponsorship, Sean raised US $45,000 for the charity ‘Right to Play’ which brings education through sports and play for children around the world who are disadvantaged by poverty, conflict and disease.

Olympic Fitness:

Sean, who’s 28, can’t really be described as an ‘ordinary’ guy. He grew up in Winnipeg in Canada (2 of my brothers live there). He wanted to become a professional soccer player and completed trials in the UK but it didn’t pan out. So he took a ‘real’ job in Investment Banking. Somewhere along the line he acquired Olympian fitness levels, winning the bankers ‘Chess Boxing Championship’ in London. Hey, it’s not all good news.  During a recent holiday, I almost felt guilty about eating a Classic Magnum in front of him – the sort of feeling you’d get ordering a double cheesburger and fries on a date with Victoria Beckham.

Everest Trek:

After you fly into Lukla (a landing strip for climbers at 10,000 feet that looks absolutely terrifying – see attached video), you begin an 8-day trek into Basecamp. This involves an average of 10 hours a day walking, climbing and scrambling over rocks, boulders and scrabble. We’re definitely not talking about the Caminho here. It’s the start of a 2 month expedition where your body becomes acclimatized. At 29,000 feet, the oxygen density is circa 1/3 the rate at sea level, and it’s a struggle just to survive.

Lose Weight:

In case you’re considering this as a ‘jolly’ to overcome a mid-life crisis or as a sure-fire way to shed a couple of extra pounds, consider the fact that  1 in 60 of the people who make an attempt on Everest die. As this includes a whole bunch of people who pull out in the early stages, those who make it to Base Camp 2 and beyond, have a much greater chance of being buried on the mountain. About 250 people have died trying to reach the summit and most of their bodies are still there, a grim reminder that this has more danger than Cirque du Soleil. They don’t use safety nets on Everest.

Final Ascent:

The final push for the top happens in a 2 week weather slot (middle of May). About 400 people scale the mountain each year during this incredibly narrow time window. In Sean’s words” “It’s the longest Amusement ride queue in the World”.

So What?

So what has all of the above got to do with you? While most of us won’t mount an Everest Climb, we all face challenges in our lives which need to be overcome. In mountaineering parlance  ‘Nobody beats the mountain. They just challenge themselves against it’. The trick is to define your personal Everest and figure out the steps needed to overcome this. Or, as they say down the pub, this is not a ‘rehearsal’ for the great life you are going to live next time!

Be Selfish:

Perhaps, your job is going fine and you can just keep chugging along without overstretching yourself.  Or you’d really like to do an MBA – but with 2 small kids there never seems to be enough time for extra curriculum stuff. Perhaps you keep putting your own needs last, allocating yourself a couple of exhausted hours at the end of a 168 hour week, where the only energetic thing you do is  lift the TV remote to shoulder height. Yet, most of the literature on positive psychology argues that setting and achieving goals (big  & small) is the route to mental health. So, are you getting ready for your personal climb? Mary Oliver captured this best in a 1992 poem when she asked: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

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Paul Mooney

Paul Mooney holds a Ph.D. and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Industrial Sociology from Trinity College, along with a National Diploma in Industrial Relations from the National College of Ireland. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and is an expert on organisation and individual change.  His career began as a butcher before moving into production management. He subsequently joined General Electric and Sterling Drug in Ireland and the Pacific Rim.

He was the of President, National College of Ireland and is Managing Partner of Tandem Consulting, a team of senior OD and change specialists. Paul has run consulting assignments in 20+ countries. He is also the author of 10 books covering issues around organisation performance and personal change.

Areas of expertise include: • Organisational Development/Change & conflict resolution • Leadership Development/Executive Coaching • Human Resource Management/employee engagement

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