At the end of 2018 I was overweight, unfit and recovering from knee surgery. I was also facing the fact that 2019 would see my 60th birthday.
I did not want to reach my birthday in the same physical condition. I wanted to be fit, active and healthier. So I imagined myself doing what I really wanted to do on my 60th birthday. I wanted to spend it on top of a mountain in the Lake District.
Ever since my teenage years, hill walking, especially in the Lake District, has been my favourite way of spending my time. Over the years, as I gradually put on weight, my hill walking trips became fewer. Almost without realising it, I had stopped doing what I loved doing.
Imagining something enjoyable is great. It sets our sights on what we want. But imagining alone is not enough. I knew I had to do something different if I was to achieve my dream. I knew I had to get fit. But getting fit is not an action. What actions should I take to be fit enough to walk up a mountain?
Then I read about how Arnold Schwarzenegger had got himself fit again. One step at a time. Suddenly I knew exactly what I had to do. I would walk and walk and walk. Each time a little more. Each time concentrating on improving my distance. Each time just concentrating on the next step.
So I had an imagined dream. I sharpened it up and decided to walk up “Old Man of Coniston” on my 60th birthday, 13th October 2019.
I also knew I would get fit by increasing my walking ability, day by day, step by step. I also knew it would help if I got leaner as well, so I cut sugar out of my diet. Well, most of it anyway. I gave up bread, potatoes, cakes, chocolate, etc.
These actions were tough. I didn’t always want to walk. I often wanted something sweet. But after a while, by persevering, thinking of my dream, I lost my appetite for sweet stuff. I enjoyed my walking.
There were difficulties along the way. I found it difficult to breathe while walking up hill so sought medical advice. I discovered that a chest operation I had 25 years ago had scarred my lungs. When walking uphill my heart rate went up and my breathing became very difficult. I learned that if I stopped every 10 to 20 paces to recover, I would be OK.
I lost over two stone in weight and then my weight seemed to stabilise. I felt a lot better but could not seem to lose anymore. By this time I was concentrating on managing my breathing and getting up hill. I learned how to get the balance right.
Amazingly, many people were supporting me. Some wanted to come with me. Others sponsored me, helping me to raise over £4,000 for charity (see the Masonic Charitable Foundation). Others helped to plan my birthday walk.
How did I do?
Well, on Sunday, 13th October, my 60th birthday, 20 of us walked up Old Man of Coniston in very bad weather, with very poor visibility. I was the last to reach the summit, after four hours walking. I was also the last to get down, after a further three hours.
So, I did it. I climbed my personal mountain. I achieved my dream, of spending my 60th birthday on a mountain. I got fitter and leaner. I raised a lot of money for charity. I had the love and support of great friends.
How did I do it. I used my Success Cycle model to create a compelling dream and then to plan and manage the actions I would need to fulfil it. You can use the model too. See an overview here.
By the way, if you would like to contribute to my charity, you can do so online here.
What next? Well, now that I am much fitter I want to go further. I want to go another step to be fitter and leaner and I want to raise more for charity. So, I have set myself another goal. To do the Yorkshire Three Peaks in the summer of 2020, with friends.
Now, where is that Success Cycle planning guide again?