Setting And Reaching Goals

A Leave No Girl Behind Discussion: Women who opened doors


A contribution to Leave No Girl Behind by Deshun Deysel

My Mom and Dad are always willing to share stories about my childhood, especially with my husband. It was very embarrassing at first, when we were dating, but he says he actually enjoyed the fact that they filled in the ‘blanks’!

We girls like to put our best foot forward, so I strategically omitted a few juicy details from childhood adventures. For instance – my favourite spot to play was actually in the nook of a large Bluegum tree that sat in our front yard. I remember this well. I always enjoyed overlooking the street and studying all the goings-on. The stories I don’t recall too well, are of me playing on the roof of the house! However, I do remember looking for all kinds of excuses to get to the top of the house. One day my dad pulled our very large lounge carpet onto the roof in order to hose it down. I can’t remember how he got it up there, but the opportunity was too exciting to miss. I snuck up the back wall when no-one was looking, and before Dad knew it, there I was (this little 5 year old) – standing right next to him and offering to help wash the carpet. It was exhilarating to be doing something so scary!

Looking back I can see so many times in my life that I endeavoured to get high! Literally. These memories will stay with me for a lifetime.

The Importance of memories

Sometimes we think that memories are not important. But let me tell you this: If I didn’t have memories of trying to climb to the roof of our house, or playing high up in a tree or that I read many of the Adventures of Tintin and watched thousands of episodes of Heidi, then I could also not tell you where my inspiration to climb big mountains came from. Without our memories, the things we hanker towards are quite literally, baseless. Without a vivid picture of the past and its influence on my life, I would then also not be able to tell you that I was inspired by stories my grandmother used to tell of Sir Edmund Hillary – one of the first two men – recorded in history – to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Then I could also not tell you that the first time I saw a National Geographic documentary about this amazing achievement, I had decided (then and there) that I must one day, also, climb that mountain, Mount Everest.

That we didn’t have the kind of money to fit my dreams didn’t cross my mind at all. In fact, I didn’t know that we “didn’t have that kind of money”. All this happened before I was 12 years old. Family finances were not high on my agenda. I knew we weren’t rich. Life was a quite a struggle sometimes. Mom and Dad tried their best, but we had very little. My childhood was very basic, but very wholesome.
When I go back to my childhood house with the big Bluegum tree now, I actually can’t believe that we lived in such a tiny house. I know how hard it sometimes is to filter the bad memories from the good ones. I think that all memories are important, the good ones are just more important than the bad ones. Think about it; how many of us spend a lot of time thinking about how long it took Thomas Edison to invent the light bulb? No time at all! What we do remember is that he did invent the light bulb and the evidence of this good memory is there to remind us every day. But as Mr. Edison himself said once he became successful: “I didn’t fail 10 000 times, I found 10 000 times that didn’t work.” I’m sure he remembered some of the times that didn’t work, which is why I found the way that does. What I’m trying to reinforce is that you must hold on to memories – especially the ones which will eventually be the source of your inspiration – good or bad.

Creating memories of the future

This sounds like an odd catch phrase. Almost like the movie, Back to the future, which was a huge hit when I was a teenager. How can one create a memory of the future? It’s really simple; you’re doing it already. Do you ever fantasize about how your life will be one day when you’re all grown up? Me too. I think about the house I want to live in, the car I want to drive, the type of family I want to have, my future work, my future holidays. In fact, I’m so good at these fantasies by now, that I can actually see framed pictures in my fantasy house about my fantasy holidays!

I’ve been doing this for years. Now that I can look back, I realise that I’ve deliberately been creating memories of my future from when I was very little (probably 9 years old or younger) while I was reading Tintin and watching Heidi on television. Some of these ‘memories’ have been very random, but what I realise now, is that the ‘memories’ that repeated over and over in my head, were the one’s which ended up happening. Whether I replayed good or bad future memories, they usually happened. I’ve now learnt to try and play only positive memories of the future. It doesn’t mean that negative things don’t happen in life. I just see those as temporary setbacks. I see them as learning curves. No matter what life throws at me, I always focus again on the positive pictures of the future. In doing so, many of my (seemingly impossible) dreams have come to pass – including my dream to climb Mount Everest.

What is the best way to practice having positive memories of the future? When I was in Matric, I came across a Readers’ Digest article. The article explained how the people who were the most successful in life, regardless of intelligence and upbringing, were the ones who wrote their goals down. So, having nothing to lose, I tried it out on myself as an experiment.
After thinking quite carefully, I wrote down 5 things that I wanted to accomplish by the time I was 30 years old. I wasn’t concerned with how I would accomplish these things. I just wanted to check if the research was relevant to me.

My 5 things were:

  1. To get a Tertiary Qualification (Degree or it’s equivalent)
  2. To have a car
  3. To have travelled overseas – at least once
  4. To own a house
  5. To become known for something

Unfortunately I didn’t keep an eye on the piece of paper that the list was written on. In fact, I totally forgot about the list until one day (when I was 27 and in my new townhouse). I was unpacking some old boxes and filtering through their contents. To my surprise, as I unfolded a yellow stained piece of paper, there was my list! I studied it carefully and felt the tears well up. As I sat there, on the floor in my newly acquired house, I had reached every single item on the list! In fact I had by then been co-owner of a house and was full owner of the one I was in now. I had studied at two tertiary institutions and travelled overseas on 6 occasions. My dreams of becoming a mountaineer had also materialised; I had climbed Mt. Meru in Tanzania, Mt. Kilimanjaro and even been halfway up Mt. Everest! I was a member of the first South African team to put our new democratic flag on the summit of Mt. Everest in 1996. I’d become known for something.

Did bad things happen on the way? Yes, far too many to mention. One of the negative things was that I always ended up in destructive relationships with men. It took me a long time to figure out that I also had to create positive future memories of the kind of husband I wanted to be with.. The trick is to have the patience to wait. By the time I was in my mid-thirties and the husband still had not materialised, everyone around me gave up asking when I’m going to settle down. I had a list, and I knew these lists work, but I didn’t dare share this with people. It sounds silly to those who think – “life just happens”. Did the list happen? Yes, indeed. I got married at 39, became a mom just before my 41st birthday and I’ve never been so happy in my entire life. My husband spoils me rotten and we have a beautiful, robust, healthy little boy. Is life perfect? Not at all. My life will never make a good reality TV show. But, I’m very happy.

My lists now include things about having good relationships and making a significant difference in people’s lives. I guess I’m still trying to reach as high as I can.


  1. Remember the things which inspired you as a child.
  2. Make lists of what you want to accomplish and
  3. Focus on making a difference within yourself first – and then to others.
  4. Make sure not to leave the little girls inside you (the one with the big dreams) behind.

Deshun Deysel is a speaker, facilitator and trainer, businesswoman, wife and mother. She has she participated in South Africa’s first Everest expedition and has subsequently been on thirteen high altitude expeditions on five continents. Deshun believes in dreaming big and never giving up. She works to inspire people in her country, and in so doing, bring much needed change to South Africa.