We all have our dreams, but it’s rare for many of us to ever achieve them. Months ago, I was intrigued by an article on the ADCC website about Royler Gracie’s challenge to Gracie Barra. This challenge involved seeing who could make it the fastest to the top of Pedra de Gavia, considered by many a great test of a fighter’s overall physical fitness and mental willpower. I swore then that if I ever made it to Rio, I was going to make the climb. Little did I know that not even a month later I would be in Brazil for the ADCC grappling championships with the mountain fresh in my mind.

When I first saw the mountain by moonlight from the apartment of Flavio Almeida’s father, I was awed by its power. That feeling only increased when I saw it in daylight. My good friend Sean Alvarez arranged for us to make our climb with one of the most renowned climbers of the mountain, Nelson Monteiro. As I understood, Nelson was one of the best climbers of the mountain and the first to reach the top in less than 20 minutes. He stated that he still climbed the mountain a few times per week “just for fun.”

As we got closer to the mountain the day of the climb, it only seemed to get bigger. Since no one really seemed to be worried, I was unprepared for what was about to come. Just driving along the steep grade and making the tight turns up to the base was making me sick. Finally, we reached the ancient looking cobblestone starting point, and I set my watch, fully confident that I would make it up in good time.

The path started out relatively flat, and I was the joker of the group trying to push the pace. I should have known better. At eight minutes in, things were getting much steeper and so was my heart rate. By 12 minutes, the others were passing me by. By 15 minutes, I was already broken cardiovascularly and mentally. The grade got unbelievable and footing was tough. I was amazed at Nelson’s ease in going up to the others and then shooting down to check on my slow progress. The heat and my heart were pounding. Finally, with jeers from the others, I made it to the top. I did enjoy the view of the ocean and the waterfall afterward as well as sharing the experience with my friends. However, many things about that day left me disappointed.

On the plane ride home, this article was already crystallizing in my mind. The mountain taught me many things about myself, and I reflect on the experience often. I saw that my trip up that mountain is no different than anyone’s path toward something they set out to achieve. That mountain illustrates something for everyone. Whether it is sports, work, school, or life, you’ll see that the insight contained in the next series of articles will help you to reach your peak performance.

We all have our personal mountain to climb. There are just better ways than others to do it. Many times it’s not just about reaching the peak but also about enjoying the journey. The following articles contain my seven steps toward reaching your goals. The stories, examples, and powerful insights contained in these steps will serve as guides up your own mountain toward personal success.

Step 1: Define your mountain

Why choose to climb a hill when you can climb Everest?

My mountain was already defined for me in Brazil, but yours can be anything you desire. You are the only person who can define your mountain and its height. To do this, you must first develop a vision of what you want to do. You must be a visionary. But before you consider yourself a visionary, you must embrace the concept of what it means to be a visionary.

A visionary is someone who pursues their dreams with a cast iron conviction. Your vision is nothing more than a dream with a date attached to it. I challenge you to see that no dream is too high. The bigger your vision the more challenging, exciting, and rewarding your climb to the peak will be. Vince Lombardi is renowned as one of the most motivating coaches of all time. His following challenge is a must for the wall of any man looking to define and achieve his vision:

“A man can be as great as he wants to be. If you believe in yourself and have the courage, determination, dedication, and competitive drive and if you are willing to sacrifice the little things in life and pay the price for the things that are worthwhile, it can be done.”

If you accept this challenge and are prepared to make an assault on your peak, I guarantee that the following will help you get there.

Your vision is nothing without goals

Now that you have a vision, you need checkpoints along the trip to make sure that you’re still headed in the right direction. These checkpoints are specific goals you’ll set to ensure that continued and timely progress is occurring. Goals are one of the greatest things you can give yourself and others in your life, and they are the tools that lead us to the greatest experiences of our lives.

There are four simple rules that you must follow when setting your goals. Rule 1 states that your goal must be specific. You can’t just say that you’ll climb a mountain. You need to state exactly which mountain you plan to climb. Rule 2 states that your goals must be measurable. How high do you plan to climb each day? How many steps do you need to take? With exact measurements, you can easily monitor your progress. Rule 3 states that your goals must be realistic. Your goal must be possible. Rule 4 states that each goal must be completed within a specific timeframe. If you plan to climb Everest, plan to reach the top within a specific amount of time.

Your goals should also be broken into long- and short-term goals. The long-term goals should be aspects of the trip that you want to complete in months or even years. The short-term goals are goals which you should be able to complete within days or weeks. Success breeds success. My advice is to set small attainable goals every day that lead you on your path. Successfully completing these goals each day will keep you positive and hungry to take on more.

Don’t ever worry what anyone else says

You may worry about what others think of the mountain you want to climb. Only you can decide if the dream is really worth it or not. Everyone thought David was crazy to take on Goliath. They said, “How could you dare to fight him? Look at him, he is so big!” Instead of distracting David from his goal, he said, “You’re right. I’m going to have my slingshot. He is so big, how can I miss?” This shows many people are too quick to say that something is impossible when it’s really only difficult. All the peak performers I’ve ever met get excited by challenges, not afraid. You must take this fear from others and use it to fuel the path to your destiny.

Pick out your dream and go for it. The dream is yours and only you know why it’s important. From the words of Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to climb Everest, “Nobody climbs mountains for scientific reasons. Science is used to raise money for the expeditions, but you really climb for the hell of it.”

The only risk is not taking one

There’s an old saying a coach once told me—“You miss 100% of the shots that you never take.” I challenge you to make the mountain as high as you can imagine and shoot for the peak. As I was once told, “If you shoot for the moon and miss, you’re still going to be among the stars.” Research has shown that older people never regret the things they did in life as much as they regret the things they didn’t do. Knowing this, you must set your goals high and go for it. The great distance runner, Steve Prefontaine, once said, “To do anything less than your best is to sacrifice your gift.” Every time I ride past a cemetery, this quote rings in my head. All I can think about is all the people there who would give anything to come back and give their best just once. Most probably died with the promise inside of them that they would someday climb their mountain, but they never did.

Remember, if you don’t climb the mountain, you can’t see the view!