Coach Shari: Overcoming the Mountain of Life
Today, I’m making my way back to the states from British Columbia. My family had a great time skiing at Whistler Blackcomb Resort and I’m thoroughly exhausted. We spent four days up on the slopes, enjoying the non-stop snow and the fabulous food. On the last day, it dawned on me that skiing is a perfect metaphor for successfully navigating your life.
In the afternoon, we had a late lunch up on the mountain and then made our way outside to enjoy the last couple hours. Wanting to take advantage of every last minute of skiing, we caught the chairlift for the very last run of the day. Suddenly, as we began our descent, a thick fog moved over the mountain. The fog coupled with my exhaustion was not a good combination.
My legs felt like jelly as I tried to keep up with my family. It began to take all my energy just to stay upright on my skis. On a steep slope, I lost my footing and quickly went down. I took the opportunity to remove my goggles, hoping it would improve my vision. My visibility was almost non-existent— I could barely make out my husband and son halfway down the hill.
I could no longer see each hill— how steep it was as I made my way down, where the turn was, or where the obstacles were in the snow beneath me. The fog was so thick that we couldn’t even see the signs that showed us the way back to the village. At one point, we stood at the edge of the mountain having a deep discussion as to which way to go next.
My son insisted that we go straight while I wanted to follow the path to the right. I peered over the area that he pointed to but the fog was so intense that I couldn’t see a thing. For all I knew, it wasn’t a route but the edge of the mountain. Feeling a total loss of control, I knew that even the green run (the easiest run) would be difficult and absolutely terrifying. Finally, we spotted another skier that seemed to know the mountain. We asked his opinion about whether we should go straight and he informed us that it would be a mistake— it was a difficult black run.
Instead of panicking, I tried to keep my mind present and just focus on each movement I took. I would concentrate on the rhythm of the skis, back and forth. Focusing on the present and continuing to work toward my goal enabled me to feel a sense of calm about the situation. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy as when I heard the sounds of the village and I realized that we had made it back.
Your career and personal life can often be quite similar to my experience on the mountain: you might not always be able to see where life is going to lead you. No matter how careful, cautious and diligent you are, you can’t always anticipate each twist and turn, each obstacle in your path and each time you will fall to the ground. There will be times when you will feel panic setting in and a complete loss of control— however, it will serve you best to stay in the present, trust your instincts and just keep focusing on your goals for the future.
All you can do is keep putting one ski in front of the other and make your way down the mountain.