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.