You can learn a lot about life by hiking in the mountains. I recently hiked the Blanch Lake trail in the rugged Twin Peak wilderness area. Blanch lake is a small lake that sits between two high mountain peaks at about 9000 feet. The path begins as an easy, relatively flat stroll through a beautiful pine forest. After about 10 minutes, however, it turns right and heads up a narrow, steep canyon just under 3 miles to the lake. The trail is steep and rocky, rising over 2700 feet.
As I hiked up the path, I was struck with the many similarities between a mountain hike and our journey to success. Here are a few simple lessons we can learn:
Plan ahead. When you are on a trail, you become more conscious of your footing. I noticed that my eyes typically rested at a point in the trail about 13 steps ahead of my feet. In other words, my eyes viewed the terrain ahead and sent signals to my brain telling my feet exactly where to step for the next 13 steps! I was amazed that my brain could keep track of so much information and future planning, without taking a misstep. Your brain is your most valuable asset. You can use it to look ahead and plan your goals and activities much farther in the future than you might think.
When you encounter obstacles, pay attention and adjust. When the trail became steep and rocky, my eyes focused much closer, 3 or 4 steps ahead. Sometimes I had to stop altogether to make sure I was on the right path, or to climb over a large bolder. Similarly, on our path to success, we will encounter obstacles. This is the time to pay close attention to what we are doing and make adjustments when necessary. Your finest moments will probably not happen when things are sailing smoothly, but when you appropriately handle a difficult challenge.
Goals keep you going when you’re tired. Near the top of my journey, I began breathing harder and harder as the altitude and strain began to get the better of me. I noticed that my rest stops became more frequent and many times I considered turning around and calling it a day. But I kept thinking about the lake. I had never seen Blanch lake and I was anticipating a spectacular view at the top. I had also told several others that I was hiking to Blanch lake. I couldn’t imagine facing them and admitting that I had turned around without seeing the lake. So I kept moving until I reached the top. That is the power of a well-set goal. It keeps you going when you want to quit.
Everyone moves at their own pace. Several times on the trail, I passed people who were moving more slowly. Others, who hiked much more rapidly than I, passed me. But, ALL of those who persisted, fast or slow, eventually reached the top. So it is in life: our speed is not as important as our direction.
You reach your objective by taking one step after another. After enjoying the beautiful lake and magnificent vista at the top, I began my decent. I could see the end of the canyon far below, and was amazed at how far and high I had travelled to arrive at my destination. How had I accomplished such an amazing feat, I asked myself. The answer, of course, is: one step at a time. That is how anything worthwhile in life is accomplished. Often we become daunted by the enormity of the task at hand. Forget about that and just take a step, and then another. Just keep moving and, before you know it, you will look back and be amazed at your progress.