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The Bite-Size Miracle

August 13, 2008 by  
Filed under Chapter 6

As long as I live, I’ll never forget how a series of 20-minute goals literally kept a man alive. Joe Simpson’s story is told in his book,Touching the Void (and in a movie documentary of the same title), and it is a very gripping, real-life example of the power of goals.

High in the frozen mountains of Peru, with a compound fractured leg (his shin bone shoved up into his kneecap), a determined Joe Simpson crawled, hopped, and dragged himself off a 3,000 foot glacier and over 8 miles of ice, snow, and jagged rocks.

His climbing partner, Simon Yates, thinking Joe had died in a fall off the mountain, was forced to cut the rope to keep from being pulled into a deep crevasse by the weight of Joe’s body. Simon then made his way back to base camp and prepared to break camp and go home, sickened by the thought that he had to leave his friend’s body in the frozen mountains of Peru.

The challenge for Joe was that he did not die in the fall or from the plunge into the crevasse after the rope was cut. Although seriously injured, he began the ordeal of his life!

Without food or water, and delirious with pain and fatigue, he set one 20-minute goal after another in order to achieve his ultimate goal: to get off the mountain alive!

His brutally painful journey off the mountain took days, during which time Joe lost one-third of his body weight and came perilously close to death from pain and dehydration.

Without those 20-minute goals to keep his mind occupied and keep him motivated, driving him to the next objective, Joe would have died high up there in those frozen mountains.
Joe Simpson would pick a spot maybe a hundred meters ahead, look at his watch and say, “I’m going to reach that spot in 20 minutes.”

He would then set off with determination, one excruciatingly painful step at a time, as he kept an eye on his watch. No, he didn’t always make it. Sometimes he would pass out and wake up 40 minutes later and be only halfway or less. But often, he did hit the spot within the time limit,which would motivate him to keep going. Without all of those short-term (measurable) goals, Joe Simpson would, no doubt be dead now.

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