The View From a False Summit Can Change Your Course

I thought I was at the top.

I glanced with pride at the view of the long staircase disappearing down the mountain. It’s been a dream of mine to climb the Pikes Peak Incline, the steep, mile-long staircase at high elevation. I was glad to have scratched that off my endurance sports “bucket list.” Just as I climbed the last few steps, a voice came out of nowhere, “It’s a false summit.”

I quickly turned around and saw a fit guy sitting on a rock sipping from his water bottle. He smiled, “you’re only about two-thirds of the way up.” I climbed a few more steps, and stared over the boulders that had been blocking the view. He was right and he seemed to enjoy delivering the news, “but you have choices. You can always head back down now on the Barr Creek trail or keep going that way to the summit.”

The sun would be setting soon. I was hiking alone, and I had a 3 hour drive ahead to an important conference.

I stopped to consider the view.

We’ve all been there. We set a goal. We work hard to achieve it. And, just when we think we are done, the view changes. New circumstances, new information, and unanticipated disruptions lead us to reconsider. Is this was I wanted to accomplish? Do I still want this, or is there something bigger? Are there other paths to consider?

When life gives you false summits, stop and consider the views.

View Your Accomplishments

Don’t get discouraged. You’ve already accomplished a great deal. Just because there is more elevation to climb, don’t discount the steps you’ve already trod. Take time to breathe and celebrate what you have accomplished. Every plateau is an opportunity to rest and reflect.

View Your Options

Continuing to climb along the same path may be the perfect choice. There is also value in considering what’s available on the alternate routes. What’s for you on the switchbacks, or behind those other boulders? What and whom did you leave behind? Should you consider heading back down? What are the opportunity costs of each decision?

View Your Heart

What does your heart say? What feels right? How’s your energy? What are you climbing for? Which path will offer new experiences and growth?

View Your Resources

Who’s walking with you on this path? Who would (or could) join you on the alternative routes, who might you meet along the way? Do you have enough resources? How can you best prepare for the journey you chose?

The Journey Continues

Sometimes when we get where we think we are headed, the view changes. What we thought was the end-game offers new beginnings. Don’t just keep climbing without consideration. Each path offers different rewards.

On this particular journey, I did keep climbing and the summit was spectacular. Well worth the trip. I took the 4 miles of switchbacks down, also meaningful.

Are you standing on a false summit?