When was the last time you were asked who you are and why do you do what you do? We get that a lot these days. What is more interesting, I believe that high performers ask that about themselves more often. Why?

Let me start with a story. There is a fantastic 7 mountain hike in Bergen, Norway, about 35km and crossing seven mountains (max 610 height). For an Estonian, who has lived on a flat country, this is a major thing to manage. But Many years ago I decided that this is something I want to do to show I am persistent and for the love of the country. Back then I had not trained nor had any physical hobby.

The morning came, 6 am and we started. Going up hill, with stable elevation for 30 minutes. I was beat the first mountain, but i kept it together. The second mountain was harder, but it was still early and I was ok, the masses of people doing it (around 10000 people do it on the same day as an event) supported my motivation. The killer was the fourth mountain. It is the Ulriken, the highest and in the middle of the hike. That mountain has a cable car – a temptation to take it was huge. I remember that on this mountain the question “Why did I choose this? Why am I still on that track? I could just relax and take a coffee?” started pounding. I did not know what was the track going to be like further on (each mountain was a bit different in terms of terrain, elevation, muddiness). I did not know if I have what it takes to make it. I was tired. My shoes were wet and muddy. I was untrained.

On the top of Ulriken, my friend, with whom we went on the hike though we had different tempo, so we did not actually walk together the uphill parts, but met on top to go down together, she arrived. I said: I am not sure I can make it. She said OK. She can stop but can also continue. That’s where the “who am I? What kind of person am I?” kicked in. I am not a quitter. I came there to show to myself I can make the distance. And if others can do it, I surely can. I just don’t now how, yet.

I walked down the Ulriken. Another boost of energy came from seeing two little girls running down that same mountain with glee and excitedness to take the 5th mountain. I got angry. (though I realized, they were Norwegians, so they are used to mountains).

I kept going. Every muscle screamed, my brain was spitting the question “why” with regular intervals and I had so many emotions throughout the last 3 mountains. i did not want to do this. I did not want to feel the pain. I did not enjoy not knowing the track and how long it will take. There was a moment when I was alone on the track, it was foggy and all I could see was a high mountain wall on my right and deep forest filled mountain side on my left. I cried. And I walked.

But you know what follows after you have done something where you need to outstretch yourself? When the fight against yourself has been more important then to win something material or to show others? When you brought in the effort and after the performance can say: I know who I am and I have my performance to show for it. I am my performance.

This is not a mountain in Norway. Hiking sparked joy for me so after the 7 mountain hike I started hiking everywhere. This is in France. Today I changed hiking to kayaking. That’s life.

I did the hike the next 4 years as well.

Why are you doing this?

Today I have other challenges and the question “Why?” is common to me, because it is always coming the moments I have taken upon something I have great passion, but less competence or clear idea HOW I am going to do it. In sports, winning is never secure. So that takes away  the control, and you are left with a personal “why”. The same goes to business, career and life choices. You will never see past your choice until you make it. In high performance, we are always against the odds, doing something you couldn’t the day before. Always stretching your boundaries, always focused, always figuring out how. To know your WHY is a means to keep yourself sane, motivated and also strategical.
On a different note, the same question starts popping in your head when you are not challenged enough. When your work gets boring, it is not who you are anymore and when you do not see the ways you yourself can improve or bring value. Experts, specialists, athletes who feel that, start questioning the point of things. That shows that it is about time to challenge yourself and/or to find a new direction.

Who are you?

The choice you make is what shows who you are. Take a look at your calendar, your life now and you will see who you were. The question remains, is that satisfying, are you happy and content, what else do you want?

Simple as that. You can paint a pretty picture about your values and personality and life on social media, but it will really shine in your choices, your actions and your perseverance and your performance against your previous performance. It is you against you or you cooperating with yourself.

I need to add, that sometimes giving up or letting go is the good choice. That doesn’t mean you give up. Instead, it shows you value your health, happiness more or you see that you can put yourself to use in another way. Things change, we change. As I am going through a change in my life from one focus to another, just needed to put it out there for those who are sticking to something that is a dead weight on their performance.

What’s being an expert got to do with this?

Do you know what defines an expert? Competence, surely. But that competence does not come by birth, it is worked on. And that’s what makes an expert. An expert is someone who is deliberate in her actions, in her workout, in her work, for a long time; enduring set-backs and failures; needing feedback to change methods for more effective ones. Expertise comes with time, execution and analysis. That is why knowing your why keeps you on the track and knowing who you are, does the same. An expert is passionate about what she does, that is the source of motivation, and when that fails, it is the big WHY that helps. I will be talking more about the expert athlete and coach soon enough as I am in the process of writing my own psychological skills trainer philosophy and doing training courses about it. I think that is one of the key elements for becoming an expert for everyone. You, too.

So, my question remains. Who are you? Why are you doing this? If you know the answer, if you show the answer (and you do, every day, every moment), you know what to do.

Let me know, who you are and why you have chosen a life of high performance. Write me liisitoom@gmail.com or find me on Instagram @liisi_toom.

I am happy to help you figure it out as this is something that gets me up in the morning. See more about high performance coaching.

If you want to know about me walking in Norway, see here: 7 mountain hike and more.