Everyone Has A Mountain To Climb

HH Sheikha Bodour and her husband HH Sheikh Sultan Bin Ahmed Al Qassimi

Success is a matter of perseverance. Moving forward is the only option

BY Her Highness Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi

TIME stops when you reach the peak of a mountain. Rather, you want it to. The silence and stillness of the moment are interrupted only by the excitement of achievement and by the exhilarating thoughts that crowd your head about the journey, when you slip into retrospection about all that it took to get you to the top. Your eyes soak in anything and everything around you. You savor each vivid detail of the moment despite the physical and mental fatigue.

Sir Edmund Hillary, the first human to reach the top of Mount Everest, once said: “It’s not the mountains we conquer, but ourselves.” No truer words have been uttered about climbing mountains, and about life. The journey to the peak is less about the physical hardship, and more about the journey of self-discovery.

The challenges you face while preparing and while climbing, the surprises, and helplessness that sometimes assail you while climbing throws all notions you once had about comfort zone and certainty out of the window and into the unknown universe. They stretch your mental and psychological boundaries and open untapped horizons and potential.

This has certainly been my experience during my climb of Mount Kilimanjaro last spring and my recent climb of Mount EIbrus in Russia this August. When you are climbing, you go back to the basics. You need to be able to manage ambiguity and paradox while surviving the might of nature. You will survive and complete the journey only if you proactively focus your energy on what you can influence, that is your body and mind. Most people do not realize that a simple strategy of focusing on what they can influence will make the difference between success and failure, between achievement and disappointment, and between progress and stagnation.

H.H. Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi

H.H. Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi

The path towards development and progress is similar. As the Chairwoman of Shurooq, Sharjah’s Investment and Development Authority, I find myself applying the lessons of mountain climbing to our daily work. There is a need to return to the basics during a climb: managing ambiguity and paradox order to survive; focusing one’s energy on only what one can directly influence. This single-minded focus makes the difference between success and failure, between achievement and disappointment, between progress and stagnation.

Sometimes it is tempting to turn around and succumb to our fears and doubts when we are faced with reality. And, the way we manage our feelings, emotions and thoughts during such moments makes all the difference between greatness and mediocrity.

I was advised that taking the challenge of climbing a mountain requires you to focus on the reality of the moment and leave future events outside the realm of their concern until they occur. Only after I finished the climb did I realize the wisdom behind this advice, of the importance of step by step movement, where every movement has to be calculated so that you do not threaten your structure nor deplete your mental and physical energy. It is a wisdom that is larger than the results it leads to.

Teamwork is also an integral part of this process. I was fortunate to have been in the company of a strong and supportive team, including my husband, during a climb to Mount Elbrus in Russia. We were there for each other when risks and unpredictability loomed large above us.

At Shurooq, all of our achievements have also been the result of solid teamwork. Everyone is focused on the progress of our emirate rather than their own narrow personal gain. This, as in mountain climbing, is only realized by fostering an open communication environment that supports a collective vision.
Certainly, our leadership has faced moments of doubt and conflict during our 30-year modernization drive to diversify our economy and attract international investors. But thanks to persistence and clarity of vision, Sharjah boasts the most diversified economy in the region, with no one sector representing more than 20 percent of its GDP.

We are also mindful of the need for social and cultural development. As a result, we have garnered a host of accolades: earning the title of Capital of Islamic Culture in 2014 and the Capital of Arab Tourism in 2015.

This balanced approach has enabled Sharjah to carve out a distinct identity for itself locally and regionally. And, much like when one climbs a mountain, striking a balance between the power of nature and the power of self is challenging. Competing forces battle to shape the outcome; unforeseen events might derail the original plan.

However, whether climbing a mountain or managing a government department, each challenge is met the same way: one step at a time. His Highness, Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, member of the Supreme Council of the UAE, and the Ruler of Sharjah, always reminds us to push forward with incremental change. Though it is vital to dream big in order to keep leading Sharjah towards new horizons, it is important to move step by step to create a progress that is socially, culturally, and economically sustainable.

This has enabled Sharjah to carve out a distinct identity for itself locally and regionally and, much as like when you are up climbing the mountain, finding balance between the power of nature and physical reality is not always an easy to task to achieve.

Competing forces will try to shape your outcomes and might throw you off track momentarily. However, whether we are on a mountain, or managing a government department, we still need to tackle each challenge the same way we climb a mountain….one step at a time. And, I do hope that just as I used our leadership’s inspiration to challenge myself, others too, take the lead to achieve what they think seems improbable, but not entirely impossible!

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