Self-actualization wasn’t a word I knew before I came here, but I guess there was a part of me that was always seeking it. It was my reason for coming here, even if at the time I might only have known it subconsciously, to develop myself and find that higher purpose that would make everything worth it. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a pyramid with five levels: physiological needs such as food and water, safety, belonging and love needs, self-esteem and self-actualization. When I first arrived at the ranch and learned about this pyramid, I described myself as in the belonging level, as I made friends here and worked on what I wanted to do. Four months later, I reached self-actualization, but it was not an easy journey, and if it had been, would I even have had such a sense of accomplishment?
I began my transformational journey by reading books such as Remarkable!, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and High Performance Habits. I learned the ways I could develop myself, to become stronger, more independent and more confident, as well as what I could bring to a situation instead of just what I could get out of it. I naturally see challenges as opportunities, but reading these books and living at the ranch where that mindset is a mainstay, that side of my character got its chance to develop. I worked on being more positive, something which didn’t come so naturally to me. When things go wrong, I have a tendency to get frustrated at myself for my own short-comings and quickly jump to worst case scenarios. But now I can identify those weaknesses and manage them. A great technique for that, when I’m struggling with something, is to look up at the mountains and remind myself of what a privilege it is to be here, in this amazing environment, in terms of the wilderness, the philosophy and the people who live and breathe that mindset every day. After reading those books, I had a greater sense of clarity on how I needed to improve and what challenges I had to overcome, yet I still had to find my sense of purpose. When that happened, everything changed.
In my first few months here, I was enjoying my time when things were good, but when they were bad, such as when something went wrong or I was struggling to get something done, I doubted my abilities, feared I wasn’t good enough to be here and thought maybe I should just leave. I heard about other people’s success stories and didn’t think I could ever achieve that much, or have such a sense of clarity and understanding of the bigger picture concepts. But as I got more confident, practicing and refining my skills, I started to think I’d stay for a year, seeing the ranch in every season. I was often tired and didn’t think I’d be able to keep this up long term, especially seeing how most of the other people here would stay for the summer and then go home. But then, I was given an opportunity to do some writing and research. I rediscovered a life-long passion which I thought had been burning out in me. Suddenly, the desire to write was unstoppable, I wanted to write about everything I did, documenting each event.
I discovered here I had a safe place to experiment, finding and pushing the limits of my comfort zone and learning new skills. I gained confidence through self-reflection as I saw exactly what I’d achieved and how far I’d come. I was mentally ready to invest in myself and others, I noticed this when my writing style changed. Now, I wasn’t just documenting events, I was writing about my successes. I was putting my emotions into words and I was making a story. And I wanted to share it, maybe to start with for egotistical reasons, to show what I’d achieved, but then I thought about using it as a tool to inspire others, to help them on their own transformational journeys. Kevan was the first person who suggested I make my journal into a book. At the time I thought that was crazy, who would want to read about my life? But then, I realized what I could do with my writing, how I could inspire others. This wasn’t a fantasy anymore, this was something I could achieve. I started to call it my book, not my journal, I was thinking about how I’d lay it out, how I’d get it published.
Through this, I found myself a slogan – have crazy experiences and write about them – because this life was crazy, how many other people ever do the things I do regularly? I didn’t want to stop having adventures. Before, after a week in the bush, I was ready to return to the ranch for a shower and a sleep. Now I wanted to stay out longer. Though I was sleeping short hours, I was motivated to keep going; I had my sense of purpose and a love of what I did. I still had struggles, and still got frustrated at my failures, but overall I realized I love my life. I don’t want to leave here because I don’t know of any other place I’ve ever been that made me this happy and kept me motivated. I was never this clear on my goals and purposes because I didn’t even know what they were. I’ve learned I need to have ups and downs, to appreciate the successes so that I can learn from struggles and challenges. If this journey to self-actualization is a rugged mountain slope, that means there are moments when I’m having amazing successes, practically leaping uphill. And then there are times when I’m progressing slower, but still going up. But there are also the downs. Sometimes to reach the top of my mountain, I had to descend, either fighting through my past anxieties, which I’m still working to overcome, or failing at a new situation. I now know every seeming failure or step backwards is a learning experience, and with that mindset I can never lose. Like the ranch promotes: you either succeed, or you learn, for with trying there is no failure.
It was that thought which helped me work out many things, which further strengthened my sense of clarity. Here at Chilcotin Holidays, I have a safety net. Sometimes that net is further away than I might like, sometimes so far I don’t even know it’s there, but it is. I can make mistakes and I can accept the consequences, but ultimately I am safe.
Life at the ranch gave me more confidence than I could ever have imagined myself possessing. I became empowered by being encouraged to do things I didn’t think I could – or sometimes told bluntly to stop being a wuss and just get on and do it, which everyone needs to be told occasionally! Here, I had someone to believe in me until I had the strength to believe in myself. I used to write fiction as a form of escapism. Now my own life is more exciting than any fiction and I have the confidence to share that with the world.
I have learned so much about myself, from my horses’ reactions, to what other people tell me and my own self-reflection. I am stronger, mentally and physically. I have the courage to stand up for myself and the reach to obtain my goals. There’s so many inspirational songs that have helped me on my journey, but one of them really sums it all up. As I stand on this mountain top, looking back at the trail I’ve climbed, bounded and crawled up, and sometimes slid or tumbled back down, I think about how that slope had once seemed impossible. It’s ‘Love my Life,’ by Robbie Williams. It is absolutely and completely true. I love my life. I find myself smiling hugely and uncontrollably every time I think those four words. I face challenges, almost on a daily basis, but those are learning experiences and I’m learning so much. Life is an adventure in personal growth, with amazing people and the absolute right philosophy beside me, how could I not love it? To finish, I want to share a few more lyrics from that song, that sum up my journey. ‘I might not be there for all your battles, but I know that you’ll win them eventually.’ That’s my safety net. ‘You’ll find the courage to face the madness.’ I can face every challenge, either succeeding or learning. ‘Find the others with hearts like yours, run fast, run free.’ Those are the other people here, who are climbing their own mountains beside me.
‘Finally, I’m where I want to be.’
Author: Charlie, UK
Photocredit: Kristin Noack