A sense of calm.  Something that so many of us, myself included are chasing.  I’ve been at the front of the pack for 9 years building a business, hustling, working 80 hours a week, and finding myself unfulfilled even in the midst of what most would consider success from the outside.  I have spent months, even years yearning for a sense of calm, of peace that it appears others have.  But I would often excuse it away because it was “necessary” to achieve what I was trying to achieve, to accomplish my goals and my definition of success.  I made excuses that other people were either further along than I was and had already achieved success and had reached a sense of calm and balance in their lives (I was always envious) or I assumed that people didn’t want to achieve the success I was working towards and were ok with a simpler, calmer life.

And then I decided to take a 2-week solo trip to Tanzania.  I’m not sure if my intent was to find a place of calm or if I just really needed an excuse to get away from the day-to-day pressures I had created.

That 2-week trip redefined my idea of what calm and peace were.

3 weeks before I left on the trip, I started experiencing horrible back pain.  Worse than I ever had before, yet nothing had changed in my day-to-day routine.  I went to acupuncture and eventually had to find a chiropractor to help relieve the pain.  My fear during that time was that I was about to leave for an adventure that would require 30 hours of travel both ways and sleeping in a tent for 7 days while I climbed the highest mountain in Africa.  I was terrified of carrying this back pain with me and having it affect my trip.  So I did what I needed to do to get relief before I left and I embarked on my journey confident in my training and preparation but worried about the pain.

About 3 days into my trip after 30 long hours of sitting on a plane and sleeping on beds that were less than ideal in a developing country, I had this realization.  My back had never felt better.  There was not an ounce of pain where once it had been pain that I could barely tolerate.  For the full 2 weeks that I was gone, I did not have one minute of pain, even sleeping in a tent on the side of a mountain did not produce back pain.

I started to question how that was possible and then came to the realization 100% of the pain had stemmed from my stress levels.

When I changed my environment and focused on doing something I had prepared for and dreamed of, the pain went away.  It was a life-changing realization that will forever impact how I look at my life and the stress that accompanies my life choices.

I’ve been back now for over a month and have yet to experience any back pain.  My goal is to keep my life balanced to see how long I can go without the pain.

My biggest learning in all of this is that when you are prepared and confident in what you are doing and you pay attention to your body, it can do miraculous things.  Listening and trusting in yourself can also create the calm that is needed to accomplish any task you set out to achieve.

I’m sad that I created stress for myself and my body for so many years, but I’m also grateful to have the opportunity to truly examine the stress in my life and come back a changed person.  I no longer want the life that I was living before my trip and I also realize that the people around me were not the source of the stress, I was.  I created the pain that existed in my body and I also eliminated the pain from my body.  That is a powerful realization.  We control more than we realize with our minds and how we look at the world around us.

I now know that I have a peace and calm within me that doesn’t require me to travel halfway around the world to find it.  I can tap into it in every decision that I make and how I choose to look at every challenge that comes my way.

Victor, the head guide that helped me climb the mountain I never thought I was capable of climbing summed it up beautifully.  “This pain is temporary, but the pride you will find at the top will be forever.”

Life is full of moments that require short-term pain, but only you control if you meet that pain with preparation and a sense of calm, or stress.  I choose calm from here on out – my life and my body are depending on it.

This is part 2 of a 10-part “Lessons from the Mountain” series. You can find part 1 here: Connectors vs. Collectors