How to Keep Going

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career change, career coaching, find work you love, do what you love, find your passion, find your vocation

Keep Climbing Life's Mountain

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You catch yourself staring out of the window daydreaming.

What challenges are you thinking about?  Finding work that feels worthwhile?  A happier life?  An exciting project?  A big life change?  Finding love?  Getting fit?  More balance? Turning your passion into a living?

Daydreaming means Thinking Big about the future – then we need to take actions to make that dream a reality.  Getting going is tough, keeping up the momentum is even tougher.  I’m sharing six powerful ways to keep going once you commit to a big project and make your dream into a reality.

Eighteen months ago I was daydreaming about making a living working for myself as a professional career coach.  The vision was exciting.  When the dream became a reality, everything changed.

Suddenly I was faced with a big mountain to climb.  I felt a combination of intense excitement mixed with deep nausea.  I was climbing my own Mount Everest – what an amazing undertaking.  Looking up at the top, I saw the sun glinting on the mountain top, a beautiful peaceful place.  I knew that I had to get there.

Getting started wasn’t easy, and in the end I just had to cross my fingers toes and everything else and just go for it.   As several of you pointed out, the challenge is how to keep going.

Once the novelty wore off, I sometimes found myself slogging through the foothills.  After weeks of hard work, the peak only appeared a little closer, and my starting point teasingly close.  The temptation to call in the rescue team and go home teased me.  No harm, no foul.

I’ve learned a lot about how to keep going during the last 18 months. It has been a steep ascent, with some rocky patches.  Yet there have been some breathtaking vistas and milestones that have kept me striding slowly forward one step at a time.  On reflection, here are six big lessons I’ve learned about how to take on any or challenge and keep going:

  1. Keep the dream alive – I’ve kept that glinting ray of light at the top of the mountain burning bright in my mind.  My motivation is to make a living helping others find satisfaction, peace and happiness through meaningful work.  When the going gets tough, remembering this re-energizes me and keeps me going.
  2. Break up the journey – when I started out, the mountain looked huge.  I set up some intermediary targets along the way.  Creating this blog was one of the legs on my journey.  These camps on the mountain provide short-term objectives – to make it to the next station.  Breaking up my dream into achievable chunks makes it seem realistic.
  3. Get support – no one in their right mind would climb a huge mountain alone.  I’ve assembled a great support team of supporters, mentors, advisers, collaborators to help me on the climb.  They carry my pack for me when the going gets tough, share their oxygen when the air is thin, give me a pep talk when I’m despairing.  Without this team, I know I’d have no chance.
  4. Stop and enjoy the view – at first I often saw the climb as an endless trudge without end.  I felt tired and drained.  I’ve learned that to stay motivated I need to enjoy every step of the journey.  I try to do things that I love as much as possible (still have to do the admin though!).  I regularly stop and enjoy the view along the way – looking back on what how far I’ve come and reflecting on how the world has changed already.  Enjoying the climb makes it worth continuing.
  5. Prepare for setbacks – Setbacks are inevitable on the climb.  I’ve had my fair share of challenges – workshops with no attendees, prospects who aren’t interested.  Now I think ahead to try and see what pitfalls may be ahead and try to plot my path to avoid these.  I also have learned to prepare myself mentally for these moments and to find the good or opportunity in them.  The setbacks don’t stop me in my tracks and bring the doubt that they used to.  I can reflect, find the lesson and move on up the hill.
  6. Be flexible – there are many routes to reach the top of most mountains and they may be more or less difficult depending on the conditions.  I’ve realised that doggedly following the planned path doesn’t always work.  I’m more flexible and open to different directions as long as they keep me moving toward the summit.

So where am I on the mountain now?  I’ve helped lots of people to find work that they love and am making a living doing work I love.  The summit of the mountain is much closer than base camp now.

After all the climbing I’ve done so far, I’m starting to become a life mountaineer.  I’ve got through many days when I didn’t know if I could keep going.  I know that I’ll reach the summit now.

Are you a life mountaineer?  How do you keep going?  What motivates you to climb your mountain?  How do you maintain progress when the going gets tough?

Related posts:

  1. Happy New Year! Less Ordinary Living in 2010
  2. Find your Focus in 2010 – Oprah’s 4 secrets of focus
  3. Life's Too Short to be Ordinary
  4. How to Start
  5. Think Big – Four Steps to get unstuck and start living life to the full


  1. Phil
    March 16, 2010 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    How do you keep going when the going gets tough? What have you learned about completing challenges? What life mountains are you climbing now? Let the LOL community know your thoughts.

  2. March 16, 2010 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    Well said, Phil. Pursuing your passions or dreams isn’t always as much fun as it seems in the beginning. This doesn’t mean it should be as good as you expected, it just isn’t what you expected (good or bad). Enjoying the ride and learning to do just that is my best advice as I have learnt that reaching your goal isn’t necessarily the best part of the journey. Having support along the way is definitely a big plus and it will make everything much more feasible. Thanks for sharing this, Phil!

  3. March 16, 2010 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    Hi Phil,

    As usual, amazing post. Good question.

    For me, How to Keep Going, extends way past work into all of my life. It’s all related and grounded in seeing your life as one giant learning adventure. I can’t wait to get up to see what I can learn. My curiosity is as strong now as it was when I was 10 — the time most children start to get bored with life and it’s demands.

    I now have a PLORK viewpoint – play and work together. Seeing life-work as going together helps me keep going. I don’t have to leave my work face and put on my play face. I just have one face, my real face. I don’t have to dread going to work because I live PLORK!

    Thx! Giulietta, Inspirational Rebel
    .-= Giulietta the Muse´s last blog ..Three keys to success and happiness! =-.

  4. March 16, 2010 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

    Great post Phil! Just what I needed today. #4 Stop & Enjoy The View is pretty right on for me these days as I prepare to hit the one year anniversary of when I left my full time job to launch my business. Its been a long journey but as I stop and enjoy the view, I can see that I’ve come a long way and have achieved some important milestones. There’s still a way’s to go until I reach the top and I’ll be sure to keep #5 Prepare For Setbacks in mind as I continue upwards.
    .-= Carly´s last blog ..What’s out beyond your headlights? =-.

  5. March 17, 2010 at 2:11 am | Permalink

    That’s remarkable, Phil, that you’ve gotten so far up the mountain in such a short amount of time. Congratulations! You know, lately when I think about climbing life mountains, I think about letting go. I finally get it that in order to realize new dreams, I must let go of old ones all along the way otherwise I’ll just be carrying too much up the mountain. That’s been a challenge for me, but I keep working on it. Right now in my business I’m having to say no to some new clients, because what they want to work on is not where I’m focusing my energies these days. Boy is that hard, turning away clients when you’re self-employed! So I guess trust is the other thing that I need on that mountain, to be able to trust that the path is there, and it will lead me forward. Thanks for the great mountain metaphors, Phil!
    .-= Patty – Why Not Start Now?´s last blog ..Meaning Mondays: A Gathering of Men Edition =-.

  6. March 17, 2010 at 2:22 am | Permalink

    I really like the way you’ve approached this topic. I particularly like the idea of breaking up the journey, and stopping to enjoy the view. Often a particularly daunting task can seem more achievable if it’s broken up into bite-sized chunks (like eating an elephant!, and I’m a big fan of celebrating small wins along the way – it keeps the motivation high, and gives you a taste of what’s to come when the goal is achieved.
    .-= Topi´s last blog ..Homemade lasagna =-.

  7. March 17, 2010 at 4:34 am | Permalink

    Phil, congratulations! These are valuable insights into what it takes to turn a dream into reality and it’s clear that the lessons you teach come from experience. I love the mountaineering metaphor which captures the importance of commitment and endurance as well as the exhilarating vistas along the way.
    A dear friend who’s extremely successful in the traditional sense tells of how she built her Silicon Valley business and the key being simply doing something toward the dream everyday. Everyday. She made many mistakes in the beginning, she lost a deal here and there, she found herself lacking the resources she needed but everyday, she kept going. I would guess that she would agree with this insightful post. Thanks.

  8. March 17, 2010 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    nice one Phil, i believe point number 5 is the most important one, being able to recover from setbacks. keep it up bro :)

  9. March 17, 2010 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    Phil, I believe that each of us are mountaineering each and every day. I bet that if any of us were given a choice of mountains to climb, we would once again choose the mountain we are most familiar with and that is our own personal mountain of life. Modern-day life brings challenges for all. I feel as if I have spent my life preparing to climb my own Everest. Now all that remains is for me to begin climbing and finally summit.

    Once again, thanks for a well written, thought provoking post.
    .-= Tracy Todd´s last blog ..What Happened to You? =-.

  10. March 17, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    Phil, my first time here and I liked what I read. It’s nice knowing that I”m not the only one facing these mountains (though I know in the grand scheme of things, my “problems” don’t matter).

    I just need to get climbing it now ;)
    .-= Moon Hussain´s last blog ..Clash Of The Titans: Pros & Cons of Various Types Of Passive Income Streams =-.

  11. Phil
    March 17, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Moon -

    Thank you! Appreciate your comment. One thing that helps me is to not see the mountain as something to face up to. If it becomes an exciting adventure and every day is compelling, then we have really power in life. Keep on climbing and enjoying every step!


  12. Phil
    March 17, 2010 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    Tracy – thank you. I’m sure you are making huge strides up your own mountain every day. Whatever we set out to accomplish, if we bring passion, joy and energy to it, we will triumph. I know that once I climb this mountain, there are a million other ones that I want to address too – and I’m excited to do this.

  13. Phil
    March 17, 2010 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    Thank Farouk – appreciate your comment. Yes, it is important to be equally calm and peaceful in adversity and in triumph. That is one key to a happy and peaceful life, whatever mountain we find ourselves climbing.

  14. Phil
    March 17, 2010 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    Belinda – thank you. Sometimes its tempting to give up and stay at the base camp, but just taking a few strides every day is much more fun and energizing.

  15. Phil
    March 17, 2010 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    Topi – I’ve never eaten and elephant and wouldn’t want to :-) You’re right though, I used to plan life a year at a time – now I look in 3 month chunks and keep it simple – a couple of clear goals with milestones along the way. Really helps to enjoy the ride more and mot grasp for fulfillment. Thanks for you insight and comment and keep sharing! Phil

  16. Phil
    March 17, 2010 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    Patty – you are such an inspiration. I love your outlook. I know that striving and grasping for everything in life can lead us on many detours. Simply letting go of what isn’t working speeds us up the mountain we are climbing much faster – all our focus and energy is on getting to the top and not being diverted. Thanks for your post about being a man too – loved that and can’t wait for more.

  17. Phil
    March 17, 2010 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Carly – thanks. One year is momentous and you should be proud of what you have achieved so far. Keep on climbing and finding the next beautiful outlook!

  18. Phil
    March 17, 2010 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Giulietta – I LOVE your outlook on life. When life is an adventure, we bound out on the trail every morning and spring up life’s mountains. Keep that energy going and please keep playing here!

  19. Phil
    March 17, 2010 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    Bart – thanks for your viewpoint (and patience in getting this comment up). When we are enjoying the adventure of the journey, the destination isn’t the sole pay-off and we have no other choice but to keep having fun. Take care and come back soon.


  20. March 17, 2010 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    Phil, thank you for this wonderful, upward looking post. And thank you for your joyful comment on my blog. Mountains are part of my daily life – as natural structures surrounding me, and sometimes also as steep slopes I climb in mind and spirit. How do I keep going when the air is too thin and my motivation wears down? By stopping, resting, breathing, letting go, and reminding myself why I began this journey. And then I start up again – as Lao-Tzu said, “the journey of a thousand miles starts from beneath your feet.”

    So I take the next step, even if it is a tiny one, and then the next, and then the climbing rhythm kicks back in, and before I know it I have reached some new vantage point. And looking out from this viewpoint and seeing how far I have come can be a wonderful motivation to continue climbing my vision. I also agree with Patty about understanding when to let go. It’s hard to gain momentum on an uphill slope when your body, mind and spirit are weighed down by superfluous or outdated burdens that no longer serve you well in your new endeavor.

    From the mountains in Japan, warm spring wishes from a kindred spirit life mountaineer – Catrien Ross.
    .-= Catrien Ross´s last blog ..Catrien Ross on Reviving Your Passion and Purpose in Spring Vibrations from Japan =-.

  21. March 17, 2010 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    I love your style of writing. No 3 and No 5 go hand in hand and without them it’s unlikely any one makes it and if they do it’s more difficult and not enjoyable. Great post. And good luck on your coaching. You make a good one.

  22. March 17, 2010 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    Hi Phil. Lots to mull over.

    I love the metaphor. I’m not apt to actually climb a mountain, but it’s appropriate to think of any worthwhile goal as forward movement uphill. There is a book written many years ago called The Peak to Peek Principle. (I think Robert Schuller wrote it.) He said we take our climb bits at a time — you say break it up. Schuller says when you get to your first peak you can see the next one, not visible except by faith until you get there. But you don’t see farther than the next peak. Your intermediate targets are those peaks.

    I think every point you’ve made is essential. And I’m glad to see the dream made step 1. Without a strong, emotionally compelling reason to climb, why would we? I have to revisit the WHY frequently. Keep it out in front of me. Otherwise the rest gets to be work, and can get overwhelming for my temperament type.

    I love what Patty wrote — giving up things we have done and still love doing but are outside our immediate focus is tough! I feel like I’m throwing people away — when I’m really not. I’m just refining. I admire Patty, so am glad she wrote that.

    Of all your steps, the hardest for me is #3 — getting help. I am a student — I take all kinds of classes to learn better how to do what I love doing. So I have teachers, and blogging mentors and book authors who may or may not know they mentor me. When you say you’ve gathered a great support team including collaborators — well, that is enviable.

    I enjoy your writing, and the comments you garner from your guests.
    .-= Barb Hartsook´s last blog ..We Live Where Our Focus Is =-.

  23. Phil
    March 17, 2010 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    Catrien – thanks for the warm spring wishes. I enjoyed my run today hugely, so many gorgeous springlike scenes to take in. Keep climbing life’s slopes every day, and savoring the gorgeous view.

  24. Phil
    March 17, 2010 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Tess – appreciate the feedback – and love your style too. I was pondering your questions on my run today! Thanks

  25. Phil
    March 17, 2010 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

    Barb – you have put a big smile on my face with your comments, thank you. I’m with you on the vision being number 1. For me, without that overarching sense of meaning, why would we go on? I’m sure that you are better at getting help than you give yourself credit for. My secret to getting help – give generously and ask when you need it. I’m not shy about looking for support and never afraid to stick my oar in and help someone else if they need it.

  26. March 18, 2010 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

    Hey Phil
    You mention some really informative and powerful stuff tips here. I would say you pretty much laid out the foundation with this post as far as for persistence and comitment. I am a mountaineer. What keeps me going is my “why” the reasons behind doing what I do. When the going gets tough I tend to take a step back look back at my reason for doing this in the first place, and see if it is something I should continue to pursue or not, Stepping back at the right moment allows me to get clear on my mission and see the bigger picture, this brings more authentic action steps to either press on, or like you say be flexible and seek alternatives. :)

  27. June 19, 2011 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Phil, you’ve absolutely hit the nail on the head.

    The nearest I’ve come to mountaineering is Hiking in the Cevennes in France, but I know a big hill when I see one.

    I like especially how you use the analogy of hill climbing to everyday life. I will certainly stop to enjoy the view more now.

    I think this site will be added to my blogroll. It really is very very informed.

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