Power of Visualization!

In September 2008, I was sitting in a workshop at the National Association of Women MBAs (now MBA Women International) conference in Stamford, CT.  The workshop was called something like “Using Visualization to Achieve your Goals.”  It was run by a woman who was a professional at Microsoft and was interested in visualization, but she was not an expert.

As is customary in any MBA workshop, she began with a flurry of data and statistics regarding the effectiveness of visualization, for athletes in particular, in order build credibility and grab our attention.  Once our minds were opened to the possibilities, she led us in a guided imagery exercise.

She asked us to focus on our breathing, took us way up above the atmosphere, and then dropped down back onto the planet five years in the future.  She walked us through visualizing every aspect of our lives –

How did we feel?  I felt happy, relaxed, and fulfilled.  I was smiling

What were our surroundings?  I could tell I was in a mountain town in a cozy house that was my own.  I felt at home and at peace.  There was lots of sunlight.

What were we wearing?  I was at home wearing casual clothes.

Was there a man/partner in my life?  That part was fuzzy, but I knew the boyfriend at the time was not in the picture.

What were we working on?  I felt I was working on presentation material to do an inspirational talk and making plans to take a group of women out backpacking.

Where were we going?  I was packing up a bag to head to a coffee shop to do some writing (I LOVE working in coffee shops!).

I walked out of that workshop totally perplexed.  That vision was SO different than my daily reality.  I was working hard in a new sales role at a quant analytics firm called Axioma, Inc.  However, I had become an avid outdoorswoman and was very involved in supporting women in leadership, but to not have a regular job, be guiding, be speaking, be living in a mountain town were radical concepts…

This September will be five years EXACTLY!  The other day I looked around and I was stunned as I realized I was now living in a mountain town, in a cozy home of my own, working on presentation material for upcoming talks, planning an upcoming trip with women the back country for my new company, Call of the Wild, and heading to a coffee shop to do some more writing.

Emilie guiding a Yosemite snowshoe weekend

Emilie guiding a Yosemite snowshoe weekend

A lot happened between then and now and there were many supporters along the way, but I can point to that workshop as the moment that the seed was planted for the life I am living today.

One small detail I forgot to visualize was that my activities would be profitable enough to cover my living expenses.  I’m working on visualizing that now.  🙂

Walking the Walk

For four years, I’ve been doing talks for professional audiences about the lessons I’ve learned from mountaineering that I apply to my professional endeavors in order to be more effective and successful.  I expounded on stories and themes to demonstrate that the risk I faced in the mountains reset my concept of risk in my career, making me much less afraid to go for that job, pitch to a new client, present tough investment results to an anxious Board.

And I have often felt like a poser.

I knew that I was not facing my own greatest fear – financial insecurity.  Most don’t know that my mother died when I was young, I had an absent father, and I put myself through college mainly on credit cards until I could prove financial independence in my last year of college (I received a grant just weeks before I was planning quit college because I had no more room on my credit cards to charge tuition).

I have gone through life with a heightened awareness that I had no financial safety net.  Throughout this last financial crisis, I have seen friends move back in with parents, rely on their working spouse who retained their job, receive a down payment for a house from family members when they got married, receive a one-time gift to extinguish their debt, get help with child rearing from their parents, etc etc.

I admit that I feel a bit of envy and sometimes wonder why I am not deserving of the support that I see others receive, but in reality, I know no different so I can only chart my own path based on my own experiences.

However, this awareness of no safety net has held me back for many years.  I chose finance and investments as a career, not only because I was good with numbers and also good with clients, but because I knew I needed to pursue a lucrative career as there was no opportunity for familial support.  I am on my own and am alone responsible for the results of my choices.

Great joy on top of Cloud's Rest in Yosemite!

Great joy on top of Cloud’s Rest in Yosemite!

Three months ago, I left the corporate world and took over a small women’s adventure travel company called Call of the Wild Adventures, Inc.  The transition did not go nearly as well as I had hoped, and the first few months have been challenging working on all the back office items (insurance, national park permits, website upgrades, setting up the accounting).  I knew it would be tough, but I truly did not expect it to be as tough as it has been.

To compound the challenges with the business, I have been hit with a series of large, unexpected expenses for car repairs, house repairs, computer repairs, medical expenses, etc.  It’s made me question whether the universe is on my side in the new venture – I view all of these events as unnecessary tests of my resilience!

Even with all the challenges and doubts, I wake up everyday without an alarm.  I get up and make a healthy breakfast and get to work in my home office in my house that I love.  There are amazing mountains on the horizon and high desert that beckons for exploration.  I talk with clients half the day and I am energized by their enthusiasm and excitement for the trips they are planning!

I still believe and have faith that the universe is on my side.  I must hold tight to that belief or I would not be able to continue forward. I didn’t make these major life changes to get rich.   I am following this new path simply to align my passion and my vocation for the first time and to reap the satisfaction that I feel at the end of a trip when I see a group of women’s smiling faces after a great experience in the outdoors.

Pointing at the Sisters - mountains I hope to climb this summer!

Pointing at the Sisters – mountains I hope to climb this summer!

And I can now look into audiences’ eyes and speak the truth when I tell them that I have faced my greatest fear.  I have followed my own advice to pursue my passion no matter what the financial risk.

So far it has been worth it!