4 Life Lessons From Summiting the Tallest Mountain in Mexico (Pico De Orizaba)

To be honest, I never had a desire to climb an 18,491 ft mountain. To be frank, just the thought of it scared the shit out of me… which is exactly why I decided to do it!

I realized that over the years I’ve become a bit addicted to comfort. Maybe you are too? Hear me out. I don’t think there is anything wrong with being comfortable. However, too much comfort often leads to stagnation… in mind, body and spirit. 

True growth happens just outside our comfort zones. It’s uncomfortable…it’s painful and it’s necessary. I’ve found that when you are present, life has a way of giving you exactly what you need to expand and grow. 

In my case, life gave me an opportunity to summit Pico De Orizaba, an 18,491 foot dormant volcano a few hours outside of Mexico City.  I learned many things along the way to the top. Here are a few of my many insights.

Lesson #1: One Step at a Time… One Breath at a Time!

Summiting a mountain is no easy feat. It takes planning, preparation, determination, grit and trust. It also takes an extreme amount of focus. The higher in elevation you get, the more focus it takes. Each step becomes a victory. Each step becomes a personal record. Each step moves you closer to your goal to get to the top.

I found that when I looked ahead at how much further I had to go, I lost energy and momentum. But when I focused on just the next step and just the next breath, I gained energy and momentum. My body…my heart…my legs…my breathing…my mind… became in sync. A natural rhythm took place which allowed me to move forward past the discomfort. 

In life we often don’t celebrate the small steps toward our goals, which is a shame. We get caught up always looking ahead to the end goal and don’t integrate and celebrate all it takes to get there along the way. The mountain taught me to celebrate each step and be present to each breath.

Lesson #2: Make It Fun!

The second lesson the mountain taught me was to have fun along the way (especially when you’re uncomfortable). This lesson came in the form of sliding down the glacier face using our ice picks and crampons as breaks. Not only did this save us time and energy, it made the adventure so much more fun.

I realized that over the years building my health and performance coaching practice, I’ve become a bit too serious. Somewhere along the way, I started taking myself and what I do too seriously. Yes, there is a time and place to be serious, but if you’re not infusing fun into what you do… you’re missing out and you won’t tap into your true potential.

Lesson #3: You are stronger than you think!

The third lesson the mountain taught me was that I am much stronger than I thought and so are you!

Much of summiting a mountain is a mental game. Just like running a marathon, you can be physically exhausted and your body telling you to stop, and still finish the race… in fact, 99% of people do.

David Goggins, a Navy Seal, shares about the Navy Seals 40% rule, which means when you think your done and have reached your limit, you’re actually only 40% done. I found this to be true on the way to the top of Pico De Orizaba.

At 18,000 ft. Every part of me wanted to throw in the towel and turn around. I was cold, I was tired and I couldn’t get my footing. Every step I took I slipped and my heart rate shot up because of the altitude. But with a little help from one of my amazing teammates, I was able to refocus and keep going and I’m glad I did because the view from the top was breathtaking (literally and figuratively).

Lesson #4: Choose Your Team Wisely

You’ve probably heard the saying, “You are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with.” Just like in life, you want to be really careful who you decide to summit a mountain with. Because just like in life, when you are climbing a mountain there are many ups and downs.

Things go wrong… bad weather, faulty equipment, and altitude sickness are all high possibilities. Having a team who has your back no matter what is essential. Surrounding yourself with those who are committed, decisive and resourceful greatly enhances your chances of success in life and when summiting a mountain.

Summiting a mountain and moving gracefully through life are both great challenges. On any mountain, like in life, there are many routes to take… some clear… others not so clear… some harder… others easier. In the end, what matters most is continuing to move forward while enjoying the journey.

I hope this post has inspired you to take a chance, make a change or live more passionately on purpose! Hope to see you at the top!

-Devin 🙂