‘This is your Everest’ – why goals matter

Recently, I showed a group of golfers the famous ‘This is your Everest’ speech by Scottish rugby coach Jim Telfer during the 1997 British & Irish Lions Tour of South Africa. Here, Telfer looks to use the Lion’s then status as underdogs to create a formidable challenge to be embraced, their ‘Everest’, rather than avoided. I extended this analogy with the golfers, asking them what they felt their ‘Everest’, or career goal, involved. The idea of goal setting can sometimes feel overused but we know having a clear direction in our careers helps mobilise motivation, identify pitfalls and recover from setbacks. As legendary mountaineer and writer Jon Krakauer reflected, climbing Everest is more about lots of small daily struggles and successes than any adrenalin rush. Similarly, one of the first men up Mt. Everest, Sir Edmund Hillary suggested, ‘Its not the mountain we conquer but ourselves’. Self knowledge therefore is crucial to completing any major challenge we set ourselves. 

So in terms of our Everest, or career goal, useful questions might be:

What is my sporting ‘Everest’? 

Why do I want to be on that particular ‘summit’ in the first place?

Mt. Everest though is a tough place to be. It’s summit sits at 29,028 ft (not far from the cruising altitude of a 747 jumbo jet). As this video highlights, it is still a life dream of many a seasoned mountaineer. Any height above 10,000 ft though is regarded as ‘high altitude’, meaning Mt. Everest can cause ‘mountain sickness’ owing to hypoxia (a lack of oxygen). As Prof. Frances Ashcroft suggests, if we want to experience ‘life at the top’ we need to acclimatise our bodies for such climbs. Similarly, we need to ‘acclimatise’ our minds for our career goal by completing smaller milestones. To use the analogy of a Munro, Scottish mountains over 3000 ft, we may wish to reflect on what our 2024 ‘Ben Nevis’ might look like and how it links to the overall career goal we wish to achieve. Useful questions here might be:

What is my sporting goal for this year (my ‘Munro’)?

How does this 2024 goal contribute to my overall career ambition (my ‘Everest’)?

What resources do I need to achieve this goal this year?

What is my equivalent of the ‘Scottish Mountain Rescue’ – if I need help do I know how to get it?

Going forward into 2024, it is important for us to be deliberate with our planning. This planning begins with asking ourselves tough questions about what we truly want from our work (our ‘Everest’), how this year will add to it (our 2024 ‘Munro’), and how we break this down into the resources we need to enable us to reach new career heights. 

Worth a read: 

  • Frances Ashcroft (2000) Life at the Extremes. HarperCollins: London. 
  • Sir Edmund Hillary (2000) View from the Summit.  Transworld Digital: Ealing.
  • John Krakauer (1997) Into Thin Air. Pan Books: London. 
  • Edwin A. Locke & Gary P. Latham (2019). The development of goal setting theory: A half century retrospective. Motivation Science, 5(2), 93–105. https://doi.org/10.1037/mot0000127