What can you learn on an uphill hike?


What can you learn from an uphill hike?

If you’ve ever hiked or climbed up a steep hillside, which path do you take? Do you choose to go straight up that hill, charging your way forward? OR, do you systematically gain your elevation through a more strategic route of switchbacks?

Summers with NOLS

During the summer, I work as an instructor for the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) out of the Pacific Northwest Branch in Conway, Washington.  Two summers ago, I got to take a group of Naval Academy students out into Olympic National Park.  This group had just finished their plebe year (1st year) at the Academy and were in great physical shape.  There was this one day that sticks out in my mind where some of the strongest guys were charging forward to set the pace - on a day where we gained a lot of elevation.  I stayed at the back of the group and took my time, kept my breathing long and smooth, and would stop for 5 or 10 seconds at each switchback.  I would sip some water out of my hydration pack and take in the amazing views around me before continuing up the trail.  I would occasionally fall far enough off the back of the pack to lose sight of the group - gunning for the top - which was still a LONG way away.  Pretty soon, I would catch up to find them sitting off the trail, catching their breath, and guzzling the water.  I would just set my pack down for a few minutes, grab a handful of snacks, and be ready to start the next push with them after their break. 


At the end of the hike as we debriefed the day, we talked about the two different approaches we took.  The results?  Both strategies got us to the exact same place in the same amount of time.  What we noticed was that I wasn’t breathing as hard as they were when I caught up to them and I definitely wasn’t as tired as they were at the end of the day.   It certainly was not due to my level of fitness...OR my age!

How do you approach your day?

How you approach a hiking day can easily be transferred to how you approach a work day.  Are you the type of person to attack your to-do list, charging forward, not taking a break, and keep blasting through to try and get everything done?  I confess, I've made this mistake over and over again. What ends up happening is I lose my steam - but stubborn as I am - I keep plowing forward, and just end up spinning my wheels.  I barely even stop to eat - although I’m starving.  I usually end up distracted and unfocused, frustrated and overwhelmed.  By the end of the day, I’m so tired I can’t even remember what I’ve gotten done.

I’ve learned to change my strategy (through some great mentors and teachers) and created new habits to actually experience the “energy of completion”.  

If you’ve never felt it for yourself, here are 5 steps you can follow to give it a try:

1.  Begin your day by taking a moment to think about ONE goal that you are working towards.

2.  Write ONE step that you can take today to be more aligned with that goal.

3.  List THREE things on your to-do list that you will do (your priorities for the day).

4.  After you complete the first item, STOP, acknowledge you got it done (if you have a check list, by all means check it off your list!), pause to take a short break, and move on.

5.  At the end of your day, make a list of the things that you accomplished. Celebrate! Be grateful for what you have done!

Maybe, just maybe, you’ll notice a totally different energy. Instead of just reacting your way through the day, take small steps and acknowledge them.  Give yourself a pat on the back as you get things done. 

This process actually creates momentum that leads to more action, but the real key is the PAUSE. Take the time to actually recognize and appreciate what you get done...
before moving on.

To me, it's like the feeling of hiking the switchbacks instead of heading straight up the hill! 

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Life is made up of moments

One Strong Cup of Coffee

What is it for you?  For me, it's coffee. 
When I coached at WSU, my swimmers asked if I would ever give up coffee.  I asked if they wanted me to try to do that while they were there.  They quickly replied nervously...ah, no, not really! 

There's something about one strong cup of coffee that gives me exactly what I need to start my day. When I go backpacking, I pack extra and even send in an extra pound in at re-ration - just in case.  I will carry that extra weight.  I don't want the stress of going without coffee.  


Am I an addict?  Some would say yes - and I'll admit - I do suffer caffeine headaches if I don't get my morning cuppa joe.  But that's not the real reason my daily java practice is important to me.  

My morning coffee grounds me (no pun intended).  It involves all the senses: the aroma that awakens me from sleep, the reliable sight of the steam fading into the air, the comfort of the warm cup in my hands, and of course the taste I have appreciated since taking my first sip out of my nana's mug as a child.  It provides me with a moment to stop, breath, close my eyes, and get grounded before I officially begin my day.  

Today, I took my 'coffee moment' down at Taylor Dock in Bellingham after I taught yoga and before I went home to my to-do list.  I took 5 minutes to stop, breathe, enjoy my coffee, gaze out over Bellingham Bay towards the San Juan Islands, and have a happy moment of peace and gratitude.


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Life is made of moments

Take a moment to close your eyes after you read these two questions.  What are one or two specific moments in your life where you felt truly alive.  What was it about those moment(s) that made them memorable for you? 

We spend too many moments each day living in the past. We worry about past mistakes, replay conversations in our heads, and think about things that we could have done differently.  There is a place for reflection.  It helps us gain perspective from our experiences and take those lessons into our daily lives.  Without any reflection it is hard to make that transference.  When reflection evolves into wasting time and energy it’s time to move forward.

We also spend a fair amount of time thinking about the future.  We worry about things that haven’t happened yet. We think about all the what-if’s.  There is also a place for planning for the future. Preparation allows us develop a vision of where we are going.  When planning turns into obsession, it’s time to stop and allow life to unfold. 

This leaves us with the present.  The present can - at times - be neglected.  We sometimes forget to just be present because of our focus on the past or on the future.

Life is made up of moments.  Moments when we are alive.  Moments when we are present.  

How can we spend more time being present in each moment?  In today’s technological, fast paced world, that can be a real challenge!  

Here are three things that work for me:

1) Mindfulness: Be mindful in the moment.

There seems to be such an emphasis on multitasking these days.  People fill their lives to a point of overwhelm and burnout. The pace of our world today is getting out of control. It is INSANE!  With 'smart' phones, you can do 8 different things at once.  But should you?  Try this.

  • Time yourself and see how long it takes for you to count from A to G.  Next, time how long it takes to count from 1 to 7.  Got it?  Pretty darn quick, right?  
  • Now, put those two together and alternate between letters and numbers.  What was the time?  It wasn’t as simple as adding those two times together was it?  You can do it, but it probably took you twice as long, and your brain had to really work!  

I saw Peter Breggman illustrate this during an interview and was blown away - a simple example and a powerful illustration.   I’d say most of us elude ourself into thinking that we can do things faster if we do them all at once.


Just try - for a day or two - to be more mindful, put your phone down, and complete one task at a time.  See if you smile more.  I’ll bet that you will!  When you can focus on just one thing at a time - generally speaking - your stress levels actually go down.  Instead of trying to manage all those different tasks at once (and getting overly frustrated when one of them goes wrong) you will probably save time, have more positive interactions with people, potentially smile more.  Maybe you will even enjoy each moment!

2) Balance - Find ways to bring more balance to your life.

When we over-do in one area, we under-do in another. This can apply to our careers, our workout routines, our nutrition, our families, etc.  

How do you find balance?  Well, I believe that we all have an inner guide that knows how to find balance, peace, and harmony for ourselves in each movement, and in each moment.  In fact, that’s a statement that my yoga teacher says to us almost every class.  We get away from that balance when don’t stop, slow down, or take the time to connect with this intuition that we all have within us.

Have a practice of “pause” in your life.  Have something that triggers you to stop, close your eyes, and just breath.

Doing this for as little as 5 minutes each day can change your life.  Seriously!  When life is spinning out of control, you will see how you can pause and connect with your inner wisdom.

3) Let go of your should’s and have to’s.

Another famous quote from my yoga teacher is, “Don’t ‘should’ on yourself.”  Did that make you smile?  It always makes me smile.

Doing things out of fear, obligation, and guilt can leave you unsatisfied, unhappy, and ungrateful.  Get out of this F.O.G. and do things because you want to and because they are important to you and make you feel good.  Sure, there are times where we all have to buck up and do something we don’t want to do...but hopefully that isn’t what we are spending the majority of our time doing.  

There comes a point in many people’s lives where they stop doing things because they should or feel they have to and they just do things because they want to.  I see it with people as they get older.  I recognize it in people who are really living.  I see it in myself more and more - as I let go of the need for approval and pleasing others, and I just do it because it's who I am.  

Live your life having many great moments!

Here’s to living BIG, living FULLY with vision, intention, & purpose!


How do you build momentum?

Found A Treasure

This past Sunday, my mom forwarded me an email that I had sent to my dad when I was coaching at Washington State.  The subject line of her email to me was, "Found a Treasure."  It was Coach John Wooden's Strategy to Find Happiness.  It certainly is a treasure, so I thought I would share!  I hope you enjoy it!

Coach John Wooden's Strategy to Find Happiness
- Promise yourself that you will talk health, happiness, and prosperity as often as possible.
- Promise yourself to make all your friends know there is something in them that is special and that you value.
- Promise to think only the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best from yourself and others.
- Promise to be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.
- Promise yourself to be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.
- Promise to forget the mistakes of the past and press on to greater achievements in the future.
- Promise to wear a cheerful appearance at all times and give every person you meet a smile.
- Promise to give so much time improving yourself that you have no time to criticize others.
- Promise to be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit trouble to press on you.


How do you build momentum?


It’s the second week of January, post holidays, post new year’s resolution-setting, and now we’re back to the reality of life. 

This is a time of the year where it’s easy to get off track and slide back into old habits OR really build the momentum that will give you the lasting changes that you want in your life.

I’d like to share something with you that has helped me out A LOT!  It’s helped me realize why things can be so challenging at first. 

As soon as you set an intention, you are first presented with all of the obstacles that stand in your way.  These obstacles are there to teach you and get you out of your comfort zone - so you can grow and move forward.  However, change is rarely easy.  Especially when it comes to changing habits.  


A great analogy my mentor teacher, Christine Kane, uses is that of a gardener.  When you plant a seed, the first thing that comes up isn’t the flower or the plant.  It isn’t even the sprout.  The FIRST thing that comes up is the dirt.  What people don’t tell you is that after you have set a goal or an intention, yes you take action…but there’s a lot that you have to eliminate or change to get the results that you want.  It isn’t just goal + action = outcome.  The missing piece is the elimination.

This “dirt” is a necessary part of the process.  However, it leads us to question ourselves, have doubts, and lots of worry.  Just knowing this helps you expect it and move forward.  It’s not that the world is against you and your intention.  The universe is rearranging itself for you and your purpose.  It just takes confronting some things along the way to be able to make some changes.

What are three steps to build momentum for yourself after you’ve set an intention?

Daily Attention + Aligned Decision + Positive Support

1.  Daily Attention - Attention is the DAILY practice of intention

If you chose your word of the year, and have set an intention for 2014, post it somewhere you can see it each morning.  Energy flows where attention goes.  Your posted word is just a hook - to put your attention on your intention.

Then, once you have seen your word, let it be a cue to pause, take a breath, and place your attention on what you can do TODAY to align yourself with your word.  This can take as little as 30 seconds of your time!

Ask yourself: what obstacles may stand in my way today?  What opportunities may come up for me to pay attention to?

2.  Aligned Decisions - Decide to act in ways that are in line with your intention.  

We get to chose our actions each day.  We get to decide and create our life.  This step may be challenging at first as this is where the struggle comes in.  The angel sits on one shoulder and the devil on the other - so to speak.  One is showing you the way to take steps and create changes in your life.  The other is tempting you to keep up your old habits and telling you to keep doing the same things…why change? 

For whatever reason, you chose your word (or your word chose you) for the year.  Your job is not to question that.  Your job now is to let go and let your word guide you.  Although it may be hard at first, make a decision - one step at a time - that takes you in the direction of your intended path.

3.  Positive Support - Don’t go it alone!  Seek out support for yourself this year.

Are there people moving in the same direction you are?  Are there people who you look up to that motivate and inspire you?  Connect with these people - in whatever way you can.  Maybe it’s joining a class to be a part of a group.  Maybe its just taking time to call and ask that person some advice.  Maybe there’s someone you can partner with to hold each other accountable.

Another part of this 3rd step is about choosing who you give your time and energy to.  Each person in your life takes you closer to or further away from your intention.  One of the challenges is to reduce the amount of time that you spend with those people who are draining your energy and taking you further away from your path.  It is important to set boundaries and limits on these people who drain your energy and make it a point to spend MORE time with the people who will help support the changes that you are making in your life.

So, as you move forward into 2014, take these three steps to build momentum for your year!

Live BIG, Live FULLY with vision, intention, & purpose.

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