Are you climbing the right mountain?

There are days, perhaps a mere moment, when you know deep down in your heart you’re doing what you’re meant to be doing. When you’re in flow. On fire. Like a climber who’s reached the summit and is breathing in the cleanest air on earth.

This week I had one of those days.

I worked with a kickass company whom I love, doing what I’m good at – and what brings me alive – on my terms.

Yep, it was a great day to be alive. I am feeling profoundly grateful.

It wasn’t always this way.

Eight years ago, from the outside, it looked like I had it all. A big job with a big firm and a big salary to boot. Three kids, one just a few months old. I was newly married and had just received a big promotion. To anyone looking in, I was ‘Super Suzi’ – thirty something and reaching the pinnacle of her stellar professional career. I wore my ‘Working Woman Extraordinaire’ coat with pride.

Except that pinnacle was a crock.

Every morning, I would jumble the kids into the back of the car, gulping down a cold piece of toast, baby spittle on my crisp navy suit, and careen out of the driveway. I’d hurl the kids out the door at their respective schools and play centres, and tear into whatever important meeting I had, with an important client in some random soulless high-rise building.

On one of these mornings, my (then) 6-year-old son Nicholas (pictured above with me – he’s now 14) asked me for a hug as he clambered out of the back seat. To which I replied in a clipped, rushed, stressed-out tone – “No. I don’t have time.”

I shut the door in his dear little face and drove off, leaving him standing alone on the pavement. A few minutes later I pulled over to the side of the road because I was sobbing so hard I couldn’t see.

To this day, the look in my son’s eyes haunts me to the core of my soul.

It was one of the lowest points in my life. I was overwhelmed, overworked, out of kilter. I was stressed out and hollowed out. I was lost in every sense of the word.

But that tortured moment with my son was a gift like no other. Like the alcoholic who finally realises they’ve hit rock bottom, I knew it was time to ditch Super Suzi. It was time to say goodbye to an external ideal of what a successful life looked like. I had come face to face, compassionately, honestly, with what I needed to let go of, so that I could reach towards what was waiting for me.

It hasn’t been an easy road to the day I had today. It’s taken a lot of courage, sacrifice, hard work and the support of a wonderful, kind man beside me.

Why am I sharing my painful, shameful story with you?

To show you that you do have a choice about how you live your life, even when it feels like you don’t. That there’s a profound difference between climbing a mountain that’s freakin’ steep and just climbing the wrong damn mountain.

There are still days when I’m tired. When I feel overwhelmed. When I know I have to stop climbing and rest for a while. But, I have the wind beneath my sails and I get lifted up because now I’m doing what I love, what makes me come alive. And I’m learning to say “no”, to find balance, space for reflection.

I’ve ditched Super Suzi.

I’ve shed that too-tight skin.

As an executive coach and a writer, by dialling into my purpose of igniting better leadership with as many people as I am able, I know I’m climbing the right Everest. My Mount Everest.

Life is short.

Are you climbing the right mountain?


  1. SK on July 15, 2016 at 4:49 am

    Good Thought. Asking this question every day to self will help one find his /her own passion and make the persons life more meaningful to self and people around them. I hope same thoughts will be spread to CEOs of companies whose agenda includes only shareholder value and stock prices. They should look at their employees as their kids the way you looked to realize, their position is not to run rat race to create shareholder value but it create a meaningful experience for all stakeholders including the society.

  2. Mitch on July 8, 2016 at 12:48 am

    Wow that’s a knockout punch to the head. Hits mighty close to home.

  3. Sarah on July 7, 2016 at 11:32 pm

    Thank you for your post Suzi. It made me cry. I have felt the same way about my life many times over this year. I am a full time new entrant teacher and junior syndicate leader and mum to two beautiful children (7 and 3). I had a good cry on the way to work just the other day because I left my 3 year old crying and wanting “another hug”. I just don’t have time anymore and I feel empty because of it. I feel like I’m rushing from dawn til dusk and I’m not sure I have much to show for it.
    I often question if I’m climbing the right mountain. I get a lot of joy from teaching, but in my heart I know it’s not the mountain I would have chosen when I left school (I was accepted into art school). I guess it’s up to me now to move towards my real mountain. Thanks for your wise words 🙂

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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