Cross Country Ski Mountain

Goals and the Screaming Barfies

Last weekend I went cross country skiing with my husband.

We left the kids at home because, well, we had a goal of enjoying ourselves. Anyone with teens/pre-teen boys will relate, and if not, then I hope your fictional life gets celebrated in an after school special.

The parking lot was full at our original destination.  COVID has brought out the hordes to disturb the peace and quiet of the peace and quiet. So, we travelled a bit further afield to a ski loop that has been on our bucket list.

We headed up a trail that was marked difficult. Correction: “most difficult”.

Bob skiing up a Black Most Difficult Run

I’m not a new cross country skier but I am almost 50 and not super fit. But it was ok. The hills were fine, I was fine, even as spandex clad race teams passed us with ease.

At the top of the hill we decided to keep going instead of turning back. I was excited to try out the trail along the top and complete a loop back to the car. The distance would be a stretch for me, but I was game for the challenge. “I can do hard things” was my mantra as we climbed and traversed across the top of a pass.

Did I mention it was cold?

Rocky Mountain Cold

I know, we were cross country skiing, so it seems obvious. But there’s cold and then there’s Rocky Mountain cold. I didn’t feel cold because I had warmed up after climbing about 400 metres on skis.

As we traversed the top of the loop, the downhill started. We had been skiing for a few hours already. Because my water was cold, I hadn’t been drinking enough. Suddenly, I was not sweating or creating my own body heat. My 20 year old gloves were leaking hot air like a politician, and my hands went numb. I tried to continue skiing but I felt unsteady without my poles, since I had pulled my hands back into the main part of the glove to warm them up. At the junction, I met my husband and a friend and promptly fell down. I almost vomited. I felt lightheaded. All I could think what “how the he** am I going to get off this mountain.

My little inside voice offered tentatively, “I can do hard things?” 

I don’t believe in the complacency of comfort. More on that in another blog post. I didn’t know what was happening, and the uncertainty was unsettling. Maybe it was a syndrome lovingly called “the screaming barfies” by insane people who climb ice waterfalls, related to cold and painful hands, resulting in, well, barfing. I wondered if it could be the very racy-sounding event called “bonking”, where your body basically runs out of water and energy and you hit a wall. I had heard of bonking but it had never happened to me before. Sometimes people who badly bonk need to be rescued by emergency crews.

Luckily, my husband gave me his warm gloves, and a friend gave me a power bar that tasted like drywall paste in my dry mouth. After drinking some water and choking down a drywall flavored Larabar, I did feel a bit better. I shakily made it the rest of the 4km back to the car.

Bonking is a great metaphor for being an entrepreneur.

Pushing hard, excited for the thrill of the adventure, blissfully gliding along the top of the world like life couldn’t get any better – then BAM! You bonk. How do you recover? An entrepreneur’s drywall-flavored Larabar substitute is a list of goals. A support network. Perseverance and grit.

My problem with Goals

Since I embarked on my own “mostly difficult” entrepreneurial adventure 12 years ago, I made a habit of spending the end of each year in reflection. I do all the things the coach-ey people tell you, like journaling on prompts, what to look forward to 2021, how I want my life to feel, etc. Then, with gusto and panache, I write some goals, try to make them SMART and purposeful. I read energizing and powerful quotes like:

 Energy and Persistence Conquer All Things 

Benjamin Franklin

Yet, sometimes I bonk. Ok, more than sometimes. Despite the effort, the check-ins, the persistent, measurable steps, I might miss the goal. And there is nobody waiting in a helicopter to pull me off the mountain either. 

I have a love-hate relationship with goals.  I love the ones I achieve, and hate the ones I don’t. Who’s to say if goals actually help you get where you want to go? Okay. okay, probably lots of people with evidence to say that goals, with actionable steps, help you get to where you want to be.

I can’t shake the feeling that my goals feel like when I am trying to diagnose a pet with vague symptoms with a WAG.  The technical term means a “wild assed guess”.  The scientific term for those vague symptoms?  ADR. Ain’t doin’ right.

I think a lot of people felt ADR in 2020.

While I’m not disputing the value of goals, I have also learned that you can’t plan for some things. Like a global pandemic.

I read in Arlene Dickinson’s book Persuasion that she hated the question “What will you be doing in 5 years” because you never know what’s going to happen to you – have kids, move, change careers, etc. Finally, validation of what I’ve always quietly kept to myself, for fear of outrage from the vision boarding go-getters.

I still make goals, albeit with less gusto.  Historically, I would select a word of the year, in a self indulgent tour of a thesaurus to find the perfect word that I wanted to symbolize the year ahead. I had no enthusiasm for that this year. I considered dissent because I’m reading a great book (In Defense of Troublemakers) about it. But that seemed frivolous, impulsive, and not a gravitas enough reason for a word of the year. 

I kept hearing that voice, in the first week of 2021, saying
“you can do hard things”.

And, even though this guy Justin let me off the hook from making goals in 2021, maybe that’s the point. The point of goals might be in trying and failing to reach them, reflecting then starting again.

Failing repeatedly, learning to pick yourself up, adjust, adapt and move on.

Climbing the “most difficult” hill

After my ski experience, I decided I don’t need to pick one word, who the farquhar cares about what I do anyway? There’s no law in word of the year selection (is there??)

So I chose a phrase of the year instead. I Can Do Hard Things.

What do you think? Sorry if you were expecting a prescriptive and definitive expose on whether or not you should make goals. This blog post is a bit backwards, I’m really looking for you to tell me what you think. I’m getting a little tired of the guru spewing posts about how you need to start 2021, and the 3 things you must do immediately if you’re an entrepreneur.

Let me know how you feel about reaching (or not) your goals, and whether you have a word or a colour or a cat breed of the year. Let’s start a conversation instead, even if we don’t agree. Dissent is gold.

You can do hard things too. You can even steal my phrase of the year if you want. I probably stole it from somewhere else and just don’t remember. 

Because, after all….

Creativity is plagiarism, undiscovered

source ironically unknown

Stick a comment on this blog, send me an email to, or find me on insta @artfulscience and facebook on @artfulsciencepro.  I want to hear all about your goals, or lack thereof.