Whether you’re in or out of the office, having goals is paramount to challenging and improving yourself. Not only will your achievements enrich your life, but they can be a source of inspiration for our coworkers, friends, and family.

Too often we’re wrapped up in the goals we set for ourselves in the office — you might think of SMART goals or some other acronym — but I’d like to focus this piece on the importance of creating goals and challenging yourself outside the office. When I think of prominent moments in my own life when challenging myself, I think of my recent trip to Colorado Springs to conquer my first fourteener: Pikes Peak.

The inspiration to hike Pikes Peak came a few years back during my first trip to Colorado Springs four years ago. My boss, XTIVIA’s CEO Dennis Robinson, pointed out Pikes Peak to me and was kind enough to drive uphill so I could get a better look. It was April and the peak was covered with snow; it seemed to overshadow all the other peaks around it. That’s when I realized a hike up Pikes Peak would be a great challenge to take on.

I started researching and quickly realized Pikes Peak stands at over 14,000 feet above sea level (14,115 ft. to be exact). Because of the altitude, there’s a limited supply of oxygen and the possibility of altitude sickness is very real. One can train for a hike with elevation training and build endurance, but I could think of few ways to train for a hike above the treeline. Over the years I took many hikes including a couple above treeline, and I decided to pencil in a trip to hike Pikes Peak. A group of women with a similar passion for hiking also decided to take up the challenge with me. We struggled to train in our hometown at sea level, but we all had a driving reason to take up this challenge.

For me, there were two things motivating me to hike the 26 miles and three days of strenuous hiking with a 20lb backpack. First, a desire to challenge my body to the next level. As I rolled into my late 40s this year, I did not want age to take over me. I wanted to consider age as just a number and my mind to control what I do and what I could accomplish, not my body. Not an easy challenge and definitely one that requires dedication. I also did not want my exercise-induced Asthma to be a show stopper. I thought to myself, “these are hurdles I should cross and make it to the finish line.” While training I would chant to myself, “Will this alone help me get to the finish line? Absolutely NOT.”

The second driver, and the most crucial one, was my daughters, the two beautiful young ladies who have given me a reason to wake up every morning and show them anything can be accomplished if you put your mind to it. I never shared my second driving factor with anyone until I accomplished what I came to do in Colorado Springs in July 2019.

We began our hike at an elevation of 6,400 ft. at the trailhead of Barr Trail. Over the course of the day we hiked 6.5 miles and gained 3,800 ft. of elevation. It was a warm day and I was sweating from head to toe. It was tough but doable; I did not think about the Summit or how day two would be more challenging, keeping my focus on reaching Barr Camp. I thought about telling my daughters not to get overwhelmed with life by thinking about all the issues at once, but to tackle one problem at a time. We finally reached Barr Camp and camped for the night.

The second day of our hike started at 4am. We had 6.5 miles to the Summit and then back to Barr camp for a total of 12 miles to hike before 3pm storms rolled in. A message to my girls that they may have factors beyond their control obstructing their focus, but the best way would be to plan ahead for any adverse situation.

Every step from mile 9 to mile 13 became more and more challenging: I felt nauseous, had double vision, and my head felt heavy. All signs of altitude sickness. To add more fuel to the fire, I started wheezing as the oxygen levels decreased significantly. I followed our guide’s advice to focus on the breathing pattern and to keep a consistent pace. Every time I stopped, I was told to keep going, take smaller steps, and not to stop. I thought about the message I sent to my husband the day before: “I will make it to the Summit even if I have to crawl to get there.”

After six grueling hours of hiking, I finally reached the Summit, 14,115 ft. above sea level. I took my phone and recorded a message to my daughters. I explained to them what I accomplished and told them that if I am able to accomplish this then they have no reason not to accomplish anything they desire. The sky’s the limit for them. With that message in mind, I zipped through the hike downhill back to Barr Camp.

After a long night of wheezing and coughing, we started our 6.5-mile hike back to the trailhead in Manitou Springs. The group sang and laughed the entire way down. We refused to take a break during the 3-hour hike as we wanted to get down as quickly as possible. Our motivation was to eat some hot Indian food and take a hot shower. Always keeping an end goal in mind will help keep your focus toward attaining it.

Now that I’ve checked this off my list, I am planning my next hike and my next challenge.

Whatever your goals may be, inside the office and outside, no matter how hard they are, if you put your mind to it, and commit yourself, you’ll be able to accomplish it. Always push your limits and let the accolades of your achievements enrich your life and inspire those around you to challenge themselves.

(I dedicate this blog to my daughters who will one day feel the mind over body experience and chase after whatever they desire in life.)

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