25 msfocusmagazine.org is of our own choice. We can add to a goal, take away from a goal, or totally change our minds and find another goal or purpose. Agreed, I set some lofty goals, many of which most people see as beyond the scope of what anyone should even contemplate. My own mother is at the top of that list. But just as goals are unique to the person who set them, our goals are all ours to shape and define, and our reasons as unique as we are as individuals. So how do you start? Often it is through curiosity or competition within ourselves. Sometimes, as was the case for me, it just fell in my lap. That serendipitous momentwhen something comes zinging at you and you grab it. Starting is always the hardest part. How do we start to pick up that paint brush or guitar? How do we start to write or take a yoga class, attend a support group, or tie on those running shoes? Something within us sparks that moment. Next is what I call the “discovery” stage: finding out all we can about our prospective goal. I had no clue what climbing a major peak entailed; I just knew it was a lofty goal and I was going to try it. I weighed my options, asked questions, educated myself, and planned out how I was going to go about it. My only exposure to Denali was a poster hanging in the office of the physical therapist who had initially treated me as I was just finding out I had MS. I looked at that poster a lot. I called the physical therapist, Rick, and asked why he had a picture of Denali in his office? Climbing Denali was a long-term goal of his, too. I told him I had been offered this incredible opportunity to climb Denali, but I was clueless as to whether I could or should consider this enormous undertaking. Rick told me to head about three hours north to the International Mountain Climbing School. For the next two years, I spent every weekend in the mountains. The more I learned, the more successful I was, the closer I came to my goal of Denali – and the more the enormity of my goal become apparent. I knew there was so much riding on this. At times, I was filled with doubts. Other times, just experiencing something I had never tried before spurred me on and kept the goal looming large in front of me. Reminders of my goal were pasted all over my house: on the refrigerator, my desk; my screen saver all had a picture of Denali. It was becoming more tangible, more real. When we didn’t summit the first time, I had to re-evaluate. I didn’t achieve my goal. I was soon to learn that it’s okay, we can’t always attain our initial goal. My personal mantra came back to me, “We have to try a little harder, dig a little deeper, and take a little longer.” I did just that, and in June of 2004, I reached the top of North America, 20,320 feet atop Denali (Mt. McKinley at the time). Goal achieved? It was at that moment with my arms over- head celebrating my success that suddenly the goal changed. I didn’t set out to climb Denali to claim the title of the first woman with MS to do so – that wasn’t even part of Our goals are all ours to shape and define and our reasons as unique as we are as individuals.