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The Second Mountain: Rethinking Success in Our 30s



In our 30s, many of us face a profound and unexpected realisation: the "mountain" we've been climbing—the career ladder, the pursuit of a 'perfect' relationship, the accumulation of possessions—might not be the peak we truly wish to conquer. After reaching what we thought was the summit, we stand, catching our breath, only to discover there's a second mountain in the distance. This mountain represents deeper and more meaningful achievements: personal fulfilment, genuine connections, a purpose-driven life. It's a journey that requires us to reassess our values, redefine success, and embark upon a path that may look drastically different from the one we've been on.


Whilst I had no idea this was known as "the second mountain" this is exactly where I found myself as I entered my 30's, surrounded by a life that externally may have looked successful, but inside I lacked, purpose, meaning and authenticity.


This led me to start the climb of a much more fulfilling mountain and now that first mountain is so far off in the past I can barely see it.


However, as a therapist for more than a decade, this has been a recurring theme in my therapy practice with the clients I work with. Over and over again, I meet people who have worked hard at their career only to find that it is the source of their unhappiness, who have committed to a relationship only to realise that it no longer fulfils them or even who have craved having children only to feel they now feel trapped and have lost their identity.


So what happens?


The Illusion of the First Mountain

The first mountain is often about external validation. Society's yardsticks for success—promotions, financial stability, marriage, homeownership— essentially going through life ticking all the boxes that we think make us a "grown up". While these achievements can bring some happiness, they often come with the nagging feeling that something is missing. It's a climb that can leave us wondering, "Is this all there is?" when we reach what we thought was the pinnacle.


The Call of the Second Mountain

The second mountain calls to us with the promise of something more. This mountain is not about what the world sees as success but about what feels deeply right and fulfilling to us. It's about living in alignment with our core values, pursuing passions that light us up, nurturing relationships that enrich our lives, and contributing to the world in a way that feels meaningful.


Navigating the Transition

Recognising the existence of the second mountain is the first step. The transition from the first to the second mountain can be challenging, filled with uncertainty and the fear of the unknown. We often have to go down, in order to go up! It might mean a career change, a drop in income, a shift or even end of relationships, or a total re-evaluation of what makes us happy. Here are some steps to help navigate this transition:


  • Self-Reflection: One of the first things I ask clients in this position is "What gives you a sense of purpose?" By the time someone comes to me, they often have no idea how to answer this question asides from listing the labels they've acquired in their life (father, son, friend, boss etc). Spending some time reflecting on what truly matters to you can help you gain some clarity. What are your core values? What brings you joy and fulfilment? Where do you feel energised?

  • Letting Go: Many people who feel trapped by their first mountain do so because of the fear of what others may think of them for wanting to choose a different path. Be willing to let go of societal expectations and the security of the known. This might involve stepping out of your comfort zone and making difficult choices.

  • Building Resilience: Cultivating resilience is key. There will be setbacks and challenges as you climb the second mountain, but each obstacle is an opportunity for growth, as the Stoics would tell you, "the obstacle IS the way!".

  • Seeking Support: Surround yourself with people who understand and support your journey. Consider seeking guidance from mentors, coaches, or therapists (like us!) who can provide perspective and encouragement.

Embracing the Journey

Climbing the second mountain is about embracing the journey rather than rushing to the summit. It's a path of personal growth, deep connections, and meaningful achievements. This mountain is not climbed alone; it's a journey shared with others, contributing to their well-being and finding joy in collective upliftment.


As we navigate our 30s and beyond, let us recognize the second mountain not as a daunting challenge, but as an invitation to a richer, more fulfilling life. It's an opportunity to redefine success on our own terms and to live with purpose and passion.


Ready to embark on your journey? Consider booking a one-on-one session to explore your path to the second mountain. Together, we can discover what truly matters to you and how to build a life that reflects your deepest values and aspirations.


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