Finding Motivation with Mike AllsopFinding Motivation with Mike Allsop

Story: Jennifer Lane
Photos: Mike Allsop

April 20, 2018

Airline pilot, Everest mountaineer, adventurer and dedicated family man – Mike Allsop is an ordinary person proving that anybody can accomplish extraordinary things. He’s an expert on motivation, but admits it doesn’t always come easily. We asked him about his thoughts on motivation and how he taps into it to achieve his dreams.

Most of us want to accomplish big things, but can’t always find the motivation. Is this sometimes a problem for you too?
It’s not always easy to stay motivated, especially these days when you see other people’s cherry-picked super motivated moments proudly displayed on social media every morning while sitting, eating your breakfast.

The truth is I struggle to find my motivation. It comes and goes. Sometimes I’m completely fired up and nothing is ever going to stop me. Other times I would simply rather have a beer and just be.

You’re an expert on motivation – and you give talks on the topic. Why is it that it doesn’t always come easily to you?
I’ve climbed Everest on an unguided expedition, run seven marathons in seven days on seven continents, and run the world’s highest marathon (unofficially) starting at 18,500ft.

I’ve also written a book, do loads of corporate speaking events, and guide people to Everest base camp … so why do I sometimes struggle to find motivation? The answer to this question is very simply, I’m human.

So when you’re lacking motivation how do you get yourself back on track?
Fortunately I’ve discovered ways that help me tap into it. Firstly, I give myself some compassion. I relax and try not to stress, which is easier said than done. Then I allow myself to dream, and dream super big. I read and read lots of books on things that light me up, including mountaineering and adventures told by legendary role models like Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Bear Grylls, Rob Hall and Gary Ball.

You originally travelled to New Zealand a while back. What were your first impressions of the country?
The first time I came I was living the backpacker’s life. After a year in Australia, I thought it would be interesting to travel across the ditch and see real mountains and dramatic landscapes. I arrived in Wellington and hitchhiked to Auckland in order to find a car and start a road trip around both islands. My very first impression of the country was how pure it was, and how green and dreamy the North Island was with its rolling hills. It was just a taste of what was really waiting for me a month later in the South Island.

The more I dream, the clearer and more refined my ideas become. When I go to bed thinking about a dream and wake up thinking about it again, I know I’m passionate about it. Passion is so very important.

Next, I write it down. Ideas, dreams — sometimes just rambling ideas — all on paper. The statistics about writing dreams and goals down on paper are clear — you’re 80% more likely to achieve a goal if you write it down*.

How do you go from dreaming and thinking up ideas to actually achieving them?
Once I’ve got the golden nugget of an idea or a dream, I set my goals, and this means planning with a deadline. As Napoleon Hill said, “A goal is a dream with a deadline”.

I build a mind map, a plan, that I break down into smaller and smaller parts. I put my goal in the middle and surround it with the individual steps I need to take to achieve it.

And this process has helped you to achieve some of your big goals?
Yes. When I set out to climb Everest, the key elements and steps surrounding my aim were mountaineering experience, gear, finance, family, health and fitness, courage, and inspiration.

I broke each of these down into smaller and smaller parts – and worked out how I would meet each one.

What about those times when you just can’t be bothered?
Here’s the key to my motivation: when I’m having a bad day, I open my mind map (or look at my white board) and just do something small, something tiny. This might be something as simple as watching a video on courage or inspiration. I then find myself watching another one and another. Soon I’m looking at my climbing gear, my boots, and at what I might need… I start to feel this magic thing called momentum. I find myself compelled to start running or training. Then the endorphins kick in and I’m off.

It’s easy to look at life-changing adventures like climbing Everest and find motivation. But what about day to day, week after week?
I apply the same principles, just on a smaller scale. I motivate myself daily using habits and routines. Routines really help with finding your momentum. It only takes three weeks to anchor a good habit. The key is doing what you should, when you should, regardless of whether you feel like it or not.

I love coming up with smaller ideas and planning a few years in advance.

So you find planning important for achieving your goals. Anything else?
Courage. Dreaming big and setting ambitious goals takes courage.

Once you find that courage and achieve something you thought was unachievable or impossible, you develop a whole new set of beliefs. It’s these beliefs that allow you to go on and achieve greater and greater things.

In the words of Mary Anne Radmacher, “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”

What big dream are you working towards now?
I’m writing another book and heading to Nepal for a few weeks to write it, I can’t wait to get back to the Himalayas. Then in July I’m climbing Kilimanjaro with my 15-year-old son, this will be a pretty magic adventure.

I’ve also planned a Himalayan motorcycle adventure in April 2019. I only have a learner’s bike licence and not a lot of experience. However, by drawing a line in the sand (a deadline) with a date and telling a few people I trust, I put a bit of pressure or leverage on myself to make it happen.

Surely enough, April 2019 is going to come around, and I’ll be sitting on a Royal Enfield motorbike watching the sunrise over the Himalaya.

"Why do I sometimes struggle to find motivation? The answer to this question is very simply, I’m human."

Father son adventure, Dylan at 7 years old.

Father son adventure, Dylan at 7 years old.

On the whole family adventure, Ethan and Dylan, both 11, above Namchee village,

On the whole family adventure, Ethan and Dylan, both 11, above Namchee village,

First father son adventure 2010.

First father son adventure 2010.

My family.

My family.