“You can’t make it to the top. You’re from Florida, so you’re going to get altitude sickness.”

My friend Ginger, a fellow Floridian in her 50s, had just told this other friend of hers that she had set her sights on climbing Kilimanjaro in July of 2019.

This other friend, who has not climbed this mountain, and in fact has never climbed any mountain, promptly dumped icewater on her dream.

Why Should We Diminish Others’ Dreams?

This habit of waylaying the hopes and dreams of those who have ambitions a bit greater than our own is often masked as “concern for us.”

Um, no it’s not.

It’s hijacking. Highway robbery. Because when you or I dissuade someone from a closely held dream, we rip the bird out of their chest. We have no right. If anything, their efforts and achievements raise us higher and act as an inspiration for us to do something magnificent for ourselves.

It’s All About Support

I wrote Ginger my heartfelt support and promptly sent her links to Peak Planet, which is a superb, and very reasonably priced, operator. They have links on how to train, what gear to buy, what to expect, as well as detailed information about every aspect of the climb.

Friends don’t dump dirt on friend’s dreams. What they do is find ways to support, encourage, and energize that person.

As someone who climbed Kilimanjaro at 60 in 2013, I not only have a pretty good idea of how to successfully train but also what it’s like to deal with naysayers.

When I announced my decision, I got one of two responses: either people were excited for me, or they came up with one hundred and one reasons why I wouldn’t be successful.

These groups were easy to spot. Those who loved me most, and knew me the best, threw their support behind my effort. They took an interest in my training program, sent me articles to read, and cheered me on.

They laughed at my various injuries, suggested diet changes, and pushed me to succeed. They were the first to celebrate my success and laugh at the mishaps.

The others gathered up stories of failure, injuries, and people being helicoptered off the mountain. In a sad effort to be right about how foolish my hopes were, they invested their efforts in proving that Kili, for someone my age at the time, was damned foolish.

Kindly tell that to Dr. Fred Distelhorst, who summited Kili at the ripe young age of 88.

Climbing More Than a Mountain

Let’s be clear. My friend Ginger, who lost her husband this past year, is tackling a lot more than just the mountain. For many, the decision to take on this kind of climb has everything to do with rewriting a life script. That’s what she’s doing.

While she is no athlete (and you needn’t be one to climb this mountain, just fit, patient, and determined), she is now working with a trainer to build her strength and endurance.

Whatever happens on the mountain for Ginger (or any of us for that matter) has far less to do with actually making the summit than the entire preparation process. It will leave her in superb shape, the best in her life, and set her on an entirely new course. That’s the whole point.

Kilimanjaro is much more of a mental climb. Anyone can succumb to altitude sickness, and that includes world-class athletes like Martina Navritalova who had to be evacuated off the mountain.

Fitness isn’t the guarantee. Rather, perseverance and being surrounded by an expert guide team. That team has to be medically trained, safety-focused, and no-nonsense when it comes to ensuring that your experience is both worthwhile and protected.

When picking a team, make sure it’s focused on getting you up and down the mountain safely. Cheap outfits can’t. It costs too much to train the staff, and the gear is expensive. That’s part of what we pay for: our health and welfare. It’s worth it.

Have a Goal?

Setting a BHAG (Big Hairy Ass Goal) is just as important, if not even more so, late in life. When society deems those of us approaching or beyond 60 as disposable commodities (with the exception of babysitting the grandkids), it’s essential to remain focused on life goals that keep us excited and engaged.

I’m now on Ginger’s team, as are all those who genuinely love her, for we want her to succeed as best her body and conditions will allow. Some things are up to the Mountain Gods (like weather and the wholly-unpredictable altitude sickness), but others are fully in our control.

As we age, a huge portion of our quality of life is in our hands, well within our control because of the quality of our thinking.

So how healthy is Ginger going to be when she embraces this big goal and sets to work on transforming her body and her life by focusing on the positive?

A lot more healthy than the dream killer.

Get Healthy and Motivated

One of the absolute best ways to ensure that better quality of life is to set a BHAG which inspires us to get into the shape of our lives for the trip of a lifetime.

For me, climbing Kilimanjaro in 2013, at 60, was a transformational experience. It rewrote my life’s direction. This is what BHAGs do. That’s why throwing our support around those who make them (even though we may not want to do the same) uplifts us as well as our friends.

Got a friend with a BHAG? Throw your support hat in the ring. And then think about what you want to do next that will inspire you to become someone and something you never thought you could be. Life’s mountains are waiting for you.

What’s the BHAG in your life? How do you plan to overcome it? Do you have a support system? Are you part of a friend’s support system? Please share what that feels like!

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