July 15

Climbing the Eiger

July 15, 2011

Personal Growth

In Switzerland there's a mountain called The Eiger, which rises more than 13,000 feet above sea level. It's a popular mountain for climbers, but it's also quite dangerous, having claimed dozens of lives over the years. One of the dangers of The Eiger is that much of the mountain is limestone, which crumbles fairly easily as water from rain and snow freezes in tiny cracks, causing them to become wider and deeper.

It would be tempting for mountain climbers to make attempts on The Eiger during the warm months, when it would be more comfortable to climb in the sunshine and moderate temperatures. But wise Alpine climbers know that when the weather is warm, the rocks loosened by the winter freezes and thaws tend to come loose and fall from the rock face onto the climbers below. So, climbers make their ascent in cold weather, when the ice and snow tend to lock loose pieces of rock in place.

By choosing to make their ascents when they'd be least comfortable—in freezing weather—climbers of The Eiger actually improve their odds of reaching the top. It is often so in our personal lives. Most people I know are guided by one paramount principle: Avoid pain and maximize comfort. Regrettably, comfort can be numbing and distracting, actually leading us away from what we really want, which is growth and genuine happiness. These higher goals require that we struggle through moments—a great many of them, actually—of inconvenience, injustice and pain.

It turns out that we must climb The Eigers of our personal lives in conditions that are often uncomfortable. Rather than avoid these difficult moments, we need to embrace them and learn from them.

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