This week, I was all in my head, once again, wrestling with the mounting responsibilities of life, concerns, and to-dos—not to mention the personal goals I’d set for myself. And with talk of New Year’s resolutions rearing its ugly head, the thought of doing anything just seemed overwhelming. As I considered the size and weight of these personal challenges—those I accumulated over this last year as well as those on the horizon of a new year—I could feel my facial expression contorting into a mixture of visual frustration, fatigue and fear. I start wondering if it would just be easier to quit and settle in right where I am.
Maybe I should reconsider my goals? Maybe I am expecting too much of myself? How can I possibly accomplish all that I have to do? What if I fail?
Thankfully, my husband interrupted my mental mountain climb to see if I wanted to go for a family hike in Calavera Hills. Begrudgingly I accepted, thinking that while I have no desire to exert any energy on activities that don’t chip away at the things I want to accomplish, maybe the hike would help me clear my head. At least it would prove to be a good distraction from my discouragement. So I went on the hike.
Our seven-year-old son, Merick, joined us. I was surprised by his ability to maintain our fast pace, despite his legs being shorter than the rest of us. What he lacks in size he certainly makes up for in stamina. He approached the foot of Mount Calavera with all the enthusiasm of an experienced hiker, anxious to reach the top. However, as the climb got steeper and his feet started to slip a bit from the loose gravel, his enthusiastic demeanor become increasingly tense and nervous. When he stopped to survey just how high he’d climbed and how much higher he had to go, moving in either direction was too overwhelming for him. He froze.
“I can’t do it! It’s too high? I’m gonna fall!”
I quickly got behind him and instructed him to stop looking behind or ahead, but to simply keep his eyes on the next step.
“You don’t need to worry about getting up or down the mountain,” I explained. “Just focus on the step right in front of you.”
Following my instructions, Merick made remarkable progress on the path. With every step, I could see his anxiety give way to relief and self-satisfaction. Whenever we came across a new patch of tricky terrain, he’d reassure himself by reciting my instructions aloud while taking the next step. And the next… And the next…until the visual illustration of what I too needed to hear and apply in my own life became all too obvious.
For the past few months, I have been frozen, unable to accomplish much of anything for fear of failing. Like Merick, I too need to stop focusing on where I’ve been or where I’m going. My role is to attend to the task at hand for the day, or even the hour. If I follow these instructions with the same consistency as Merick, I too will conquer the challenges set out before me, no matter how improbable it may appear from where I am standing today.
Already I’ve applied this technique to my life. I’m amazed at the progress I’ve made in just a few days. Not that I’ve gone far or don’t have far to go. I haven’t; and I do—but again, that is not a concern of mine anymore. The good news is that I’m moving and I’m moving in the right direction. As my daughter, Kendal, reminded me on a subsequent hike, it’s not how fast you get to where you are going that is important, but rather that you keep going.