#528 Unicorns and Where to Find Them

Hint: On Mt. Everest (+ How to Give Your Stress Meaning)

In our last +1, we talked about Joseph Campbell’s thoughts on Bliss AND Pain. Short story there, if you’re ONLY experiencing fun and excitement (and accompanying sunshine and rainbows and unicorns 🦄!) then you’re doing it wrong.

TRULY following your TRUE bliss isn’t always easy. “Sometimes pain is bliss.”

To bring the point home, we talked about the choppy waters that (painfully) lead a scuba diver to the best spot far out in the ocean from which he can dive deep and experience his bliss.

Today I want to talk about climbing Mount Everest.

Specifically, I want to share a passage from Kelly McGonigal’s great book The Upside of Stress.

Her book is all about the scientific fact (!) that how we INTERPRET our stress DETERMINES how it AFFECTS us. <- Powerful stuff.

Here’s the super-quick recap: If you think that stress is beckoning you to step up and express the best within you, you’ll have what researchers call a “challenge response” which has a completely (!) different biochemical profile than if you think that stress is crushing you—which is referred to as a “threat response.” One creates a biochemical cocktail to crush it. The other crushes you.

So…

On to Everest.

Here’s how McGonigal puts it: “Everyone has an Everest. Whether it’s a climb you choose, or a circumstance you find yourself in, you’re in the middle of an important journey. Can you imagine a climber scaling the wall of ice at Everest’s Lhotse Face and saying, ‘This is such a hassle’? Or spending the first night in the mountain’s ‘death zone’ and thinking, ‘I don’t need this stress’? The climber knows the context of his stress. It has personal meaning to him; he has chosen it. You are most liable to feel like a victim of the stress in your life when you forget the context the stress is unfolding in. ‘Just another cold, dark night on the side of Everest’ is a way to remember the paradox of stress. The most meaningful challenges in your life will come with a few dark nights.

The biggest problem with trying to avoid stress is how it changes the way we view our lives, and ourselves. Anything in life that causes stress starts to look like a problem. If you experience stress at work, you think there’s something wrong with your job. If you experience stress in your marriage, you think there’s something wrong with your relationship. If you experience stress as a parent, you think there’s something wrong with your parenting (or your kids). If trying to make a change is stressful, you think there’s something wrong with your goal.”

There ya go.

That’s Today’s +1.

We all have our Everest.

What’s yours?

Let’s quit expecting to float through life kicking back on a cloud high-fiving unicorns all day every day while we play whatever app game that’s so popular these days.

Stress is inevitable and, in fact, DESIRABLE. Let’s know we’ve got what it takes to meet any and all of life’s challenges as we step back from the edge in those particularly challenging moments and remember the paradox of stress.

“The most meaningful challenges in your life will come with a few dark nights.”

And… Next time you’re feeling particularly acute stress, remember: It’s “Just another cold, dark night on the side of Everest.”

And, who knows, maybe you WILL see a unicorn up there. If they exist, it’s certainly only at such peaks. 🤓 🦄

Unlock the full Optimize Experience

Get instant access to a ton of wisdom. Optimize every facet of your life. Actualize your potential.

Start free trial