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How to climb the Mountain of Dread (part I)

Updated: Apr 12

A man with a snowboard strapped to his backpack ready hike up a snowy mountain

I love hiking. Last week, instead of taking another chairlift, I hiked to score some fresh snow. The hike was challenging but the reward was incredible!

Recently, I've been climbing a different type of mountain. I've been climbing the Mountain of Dread 🌋.

I spend most of my time fine-tuning our upcoming course, Adult EF Skills 101After a long day of work, the last thing I want to do is chores. Washing the dishes is the worst! 

After dinner, the thought of washing dishes sparks negative emotions and unhelpful self-talk: 

  • I am too exhausted to do this.

  • This is going to be terrible.

  • Why can't my partner just do it? 

In this blog post, I teach you how to climb your Mountain of Dread by recalibrating your emotional state. Let’s go hiking! 

What is the Mountain of Dread? 🌋

Imagine standing at the bottom of a mountain with a 50-pound backpack.  The summit, miles away, is poking out through the clouds. As you think about starting the hike, fear, anxiety, and worry build. Your backpack is so heavy, you can’t even take the first step. 

This is the Mountain of Dread. Everyone has one. It is an emotional mountain that prevents us from getting stuff done. At the top are your most difficult, tedious, and dreaded to-dos. 

What is at the top of your Mountain of Dread?

  • Cleaning

  • Difficult conversations

  • Exercise

  • Paying bills

Why do I procrastinate? 

When we avoid or fail, we experience negative emotions and add them to our backpacks.  This makes hiking the mountain (starting the task) more difficult. If we avoid or fail again, we add more weight to our backpacks, making the hike more difficult.

When we attempt to start a dreaded to-do, our emotions get in the way. That 50-pound backpack is too heavy. But, like a mountain climber, we can learn strategies to lighten our backpacks, making hiking to the top easier.


white male with long, dark hair, standing in front of a green background, wearing a black jacket

How NOT to Climb It

Forcing yourself doesn't work. Would a mountain climber get there if they don't prepare, bring any tools, and sprint to the summit? 

Maybe. But, how would they feel?

Hungry. Thirsty. Exhausted. 

The same is true for the Mountain of Dread. Forcing yourself isn't an effective way to start difficult tasks. It might work, but you will drain yourself in the process.

How TO climb the Mountain of Dread

Like mountain climbers, we can prepare in advance and use tools to start dreaded tasks. The I.A.M. Method is an effective strategy to manage your emotions before starting, thus lightening your backpack. 

the I AM Method explained on an infographic with a green background and white and black text

Here's how I used the strategy last week:


I am tired after work and washing dishes feels draining.


Washing dishes is the last thing I want to do. But, I want my kitchen to be clean.

🏃‍♂️ Make a MOVE

I will do 4 rounds of box breathing and then wash one plate.


Everyone has a Mountain of Dread. It is an emotional mountain that we must hike to start difficult tasks. We avoid hiking the mountain (procrastination) because our backpacks are too heavy. They are full of the emotions that accompany the start of a task. Forcing ourselves doesn’t work. We drain ourselves during the hike. Instead, use the I.A.M. Method to manage your emotions. It will lighten the weight of your backpack and make starting feel easier.

Want to join our next cohort of Adult EF Skills 101?

We know adulting is HARD. It demands strong executive functions. Luckily, we've made a course to cover the fundamentals so you can make the best of each day. In this course, you will:

  • Learn how to plan your priorities 🎯

  • Learn to get started (task initiate) 🔨

  • Learn how to keep things tidy 🧺

  • Learn how to find and keep a job 👩‍💻

  • Learn how to communicate effectively 🗣️

  • Learn how to budget 🤑

Stay Engaged

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About the Author

Eric Kaufmann, M.Ed is a Professional Educational Therapist and Certified Executive Function Coach. He is the Co-founder of UpSkill Specialists, an online adult executive function coaching company designed to guide adults in overcoming disorganization, procrastination, and productivity roadblocks so they can unlock their potential. Eric is also the founder of Elevate Learning Solutions, an Educational Therapy practice located in San Clemente, CA, that guides students with neurological differences toward becoming independent and confident students and self-leaders.

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About 👋

Upskill Specialists was founded when two former special education teachers turned executive function coaches decided that adults need tools and coaching to improve their workplace skills and feel confident and empowered. Our mission is to ensure every adult with EF challenges has access to high-quality coaching services. 

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