A Polar Explorer Talks About “Making Progress”

Is there a secret to motivation?

I sure wish there was don’t you?

Maybe a secret trick: do A then B then C and voila, you shall be motivated!


I vehemently wished for this answer a few days ago as I sat in the Ford Canyon trailhead parking lot totally demotivated to hike for the next 3 hours in 100 degree heat with a 30 lb pack. Just getting out of bed and dressed was a horror show of excuses and mental tantrums. I was lucky for a dear friend who “talked” me through it as I texted her my snail paced progress and mental demons.


So there I sat and I wondered, “What is the damn secret? Please, TELL ME!”


But the desert was silent.


With a deep groan I stepped out of my truck, shouldered my pack and started off.

Ford Canyon Hike Pictures


As I hiked I found myself starting to remember some answers after all. Recently I interviewed polar explorer Felicity Aston, and asked her the same question I asked the desert.


Her answers are like diamonds.


Do you need some nuggets to live by?

Then read on.


Or click here first to learn about Felicity Aston and all of her impressive adventurous feats.


I asked her:  “Do you believe there is a secret to motivation? And if there is do you think it’s some sort of inspiration or passion?”


“The secret [to motivation] is working out what it is that keeps you going. The trick is to find it, and you have to do that yourself.”

Click to Tweet!


You have to do that yourself, find IT that is. 


Felicity found hers in tough memories and in leadership.


“My strongest motivation comes from thinking about people who have not believed in me…It’s bizarre the little instances that stick in your mind…In remembering that hurt, digging out those old wounds.. I do not want to be that person they think I am, therefore I have to keep going.”

She continues,

“Leadership itself is a big motivator for me… being in charge of people made me be a better person, I was better than myself because I needed to be.”


Rise up to the situation, be better, and find strength in defying how others might define you. Click to Tweet!


Me: Do you believe there is a difference in motivation for men and women? 


Felicity:I’ve spent a lot of time being the only woman, or certainly in the minority. I’ve discovered the attitude of men and women don’t necessarily fall into stereotypes… men are just as big of gossips as women are, they are very gossipy and they’re very bitchy to each other as well. I’ve sat there amazed in tents listening to these guys, thinking ‘Gosh you are a bunch of old women.’ ” Felicity chuckles as it is just the way of things when everyone is crammed into one tent on long expeditions.

“There was one expedition [sic] where I finally had to tell [a male counterpart], ‘you need to not be crying so much, you need to take the emotion out of it.’  I’ve also worked with teams of women, and this idea that women are all sort of caring and tuned in to each other and very instinctive can also be very wrong. I’ve worked with women who can be really tough and I think sometimes there is a tendency to overcompensate if you work with women who maybe themselves have worked in male environments for so long they are as tough, if not tougher, on the women around them than they are on guys. That is probably a product of this sense of having to prove yourself all the time”


“Women as a minority in a male environment – you are very aware you have to step up – and that in a sense becomes its own motivation.”  Click to Tweet!


So she steps up and achieves things that are really hard.

On that topic, choosing to do things that are hard, I ask “My curiosity is in choosing things that are hard.  You are choosing to do things that are extremely difficult, is that choice not even in your head? ”   I press on: “Is it even a choice for you? Or is it just what you do?”

Ms. Aston reminisces about a time in grade school when Rebecca Stephens, the first British woman to summit Everest, came to speak at her school.

Ms. Stephens said, “If you are given the choice between the easy and the hard path, take the hard path.”  Click to Tweet!


Felicity: “Something about that stuck with me, because the hard path is always more rewarding when you succeed, and even if you don’t succeed you can comfort yourself with saying ‘I took the hard path.’ “ 

“I’ve always been really curious what I can do. Wehn I read a story about someone else doing something I think, 

‘What would that be like?’ 

‘What would I do?’ 

‘If I was put under that pressure what would my response be?’ “


A fascination in the human spirit and an opportunity to put that into practice. A curiosity to know what it would feel like and see how she would react when taking the hard path.


Felicity: So deciding to go solo for example, it was a curiosity to know whether I could, and to know what it would feel like, and to see how I would react.

Also I quite like surprising people, if I’m honest,” she admits to me in an impish and very heartwarming way.


When she shows up for a talk for instance, and they are expecting something different, yet, “I can scrub up quite well,” she tells me and I am charmed.  Surprising people is a way of life for Ms. Aston as she describes arriving at large events and the moment it is found out that that she’s not there as someone’s partner but as someone who has DONE something.


Someone who has done something, indeed.


Me: What’s your next challenge?


Felicity: “I’m not sure what the next one will be, there’s lot’s of projects in lot’s of stages of togetherness…I also turn 37 next year, the age old question that all women have to face: to child or not to child.  So I’m going to have to sort that question out for the next 5 years. So maybe the next challenge is working out how to keep my career and my family at the same time, just like every other woman.”


And isn’t that the way of things?


Finally the question I ask all the amazing women explorers and adventurers I meet:


If you could give one piece of advice for the rest of your life what would it be?


Ms. Aston says on being alone in Antarctica during her 60 day solo ski across the continent, it really came down to one nugget:


Felicity: “The focus of the expedition didn’t come down to anything heroic like leaping across crevasses or super human feats. It just came down to a really basic thing every morning of getting myself out of the tent. That was all I focused on. So my little motto became:

Keep getting out of the tent. When I got back it just seemed this same motto applied to so many different things. If we just keep going, its not about how much progress we make it’s about making progress no matter how small, that’s the important thing, that you keep moving forward.”


We chat about that idea and agree: It’s a real simple trivial thing, but sometimes it can be really really tough, “just getting those trainers on”, she says and I add, “just stepping out the door to go on that morning jog.”

“That decision…getting started, that’s the hardest bit,” she admits and Felicity I couldn’t agree more.


photo © kasperskylabs photo of tent during F. Aston's Solo Antarctic traverse

photo © kasperskylabs

“Keep getting out of the tent.” ~Felicity Aston Polar Explorer and all around amazing woman.  Click to Tweet!


What will YOU get started on today? What progress will YOU make?


Keep getting out of the tent people, I’m with ya, let’s do it together.