Climbing a mountain can seem daunting or even unappealing to many of us. ‘It’s too intimidating‘, ‘I don’t like hiking ‘ or ‘I’m  not in good enough shape‘, these are all thoughts that prevent us from stepping out – they keep us stuck right where we are.

The good news is that finding and climbing your second mountain does not require any level of physical fitness or even sturdy hiking boots. What it does require though is courage and an open heart.

What is the second mountain?

I came across the concept of the second mountain by listening to a podcast by David Books, and I was intrigued. Brooks is an American political commentator (PBS NewsHour), author and writer for The New York Times. He wrote the book “The Second Mountain: The quest for a moral life”. In it, he describes the second mountain as

a place where you pursue a life in service to others and a purpose beyond your own self-interest.”

Of course, where there is a second mountain,  there must be a first mountain, that only makes sense. Brooks talks about that first mountain journey as leaving school, pursuing career success, achieving more and serving our self-interests. It is important to know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the first mountain. In fact, it often serves as the catalyst that leads us to a second mountain life of making a commitment to something greater than ourselves.

Finding my second mountain

Brooks finds himself “in the foothills of his second mountain” and I am there too. I enjoyed climbing my first mountain: Having a great career, working hard, making good money, and having the material things and accolades that proved my success. But over time, I became restless with this nagging feeling that there is more to life.

My heart yearned for a higher purpose, a following of something deeper and more meaningful. I wanted to feel a deeper connection to myself and those around me – to be in service of a greater cause. My job was to figure out what that was.

While I didn’t have a sudden epiphany or lightening bolt experience of what this second mountain was going to be for me, I gradually started making decisions by listening to my gut and my heart. I quit a well-paying job to pursue a Masters degree. After that, I returned to the corporate world only to leave my new role  with a company where I couldn’t honour my core values. I then started my own HR consulting business as well as branched out into teaching and being in service to others.

This process is a very personal journey, an awakening of the soul. It’s like peeling the layers of an onion: to go deeper and deeper into ourselves to discover who we are truly meant to be in this world.

Discovering your second mountain

Do you ever get calls to climb your second mountain? Perhaps faint whispers that sound something like this: ‘There has to be more in life or in my job’, ‘I feel restless and unfulfilled’, or ‘I want to be part of something bigger than myself’. Or maybe the call sounds more like a big bang; you have lost your job or an important relationship and need to figure out what’s next.

Whatever has brought you to the foothills of your second mountain, my invitation to you is to listen with your heart. To look both to the world outside of you to find what you are passionate about and where your gifts are most needed.  And also, to become still and look to the world inside of you to examine your values and the things that matter deeply to you.

Discovering your second mountain is a process, an evolving of yourself, if you will. It is a journey bound to enrich your life and the life of those you touch.

Wishing you well on your journey.

Source: The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life. David Brooks, (2019).