THE GIFT OF A BOULDER
Did you have to drink your own pee today? That is a question I sometimes ask myself in the midst of a bad day. I’m serious! A few years ago, I had the pleasure of seeing Aron Ralston as the keynote speaker of a leadership conference. His words and his story have stuck with me ever since and I replay them in my mind when I find I need a little perspective. That sentence is one of them. If his name sounds familiar, it’s because he is the mountain climber who fell in a Utah canyon during a 2003 hike and famously cut off his own arm to survive.
I can remember being riveted as I listened to his recap of the harrowing 127-hour ordeal. What struck me most was that he came out of that canyon with no regrets. He doesn’t regret not bringing a jacket, he doesn’t wish he had a sharper knife, he wouldn’t have taken more water (despite drinking his own urine to survive). He believes to this day that it had to happen the way that it happened. And the boulder that pinned his arm? He considers it a blessing. Without it, he wouldn’t have been drawn out of his everyday life into one that is now based on pure appreciation and gratitude.
The best part? We all have boulders. And that’s a good thing! Why? There will be pain, there will be difficulties, there will be hardships. But whether we allow them to become tragedies or triumphs is up to us. It’s in the way that we look at them. Shakespeare has famously said, “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” I’ve been up against my fair share of boulders. They range in shape and they range in size but they almost always fall on me when I least expect them to, just like Aron’s. And like Aron, I usually react by screaming at them, hacking at them or trying to lift them off of me. That’s about the time when I have to stop and regain my perspective. Unlike Aron, I’m not trapped in a desert canyon. I’m not suffering without food or water. I don’t have to sleep standing up. Aron needed extreme levels of human strength, determination and grit to survive his ordeal. With just a fraction of that, we can turn any of our own boulders into success stories and through that process understand the priceless gifts they bring along with them. They will reveal to us what is most important in our lives and shine a light on our priorities. That is the essence of gratitude.
Brute force is not the answer. Pausing to reflect and feel that gratitude, that’s the game changer. Expressing gratitude instantly shifts your energy. It is the fastest way to return back to center when facing problems or when feeling overwhelmed. Focusing on the problem only puts more energy into the problem. And that’s when the problem gets bigger. One of my success mentors has often said, “the solution to the problem does not exist on the same vibration level as the problem”. Aron couldn’t solve his problem simply by attacking the boulder. It was 800 pounds of immovable and impenetrable rock. But once he put the focus of his energy on the result, getting out of the cave instead of removing the boulder, solutions began to present themselves. And he made his way out of the canyon, full of more life and more gratitude then he ever thought possible.
If you ever have the opportunity to see Aron speak, take it. If you are inclined to search and watch him on YouTube, do it. But above all else, the next time you’re face to face with a boulder, remember the gifts that it brings. And if you’re searching for reasons to be grateful for it, remembering that you don’t have to drink your own urine in order to get past it is always a good place to start.