Sometimes after the excitement of a new beginning, things happen that make reaching your goals seem harder than you imagined. On a recent trip to Acadia National Park in Maine with my family, we were reminded of what that experience can be like, and what it takes to keep going. With that in mind, here are 10 things to think about to help you in reaching your goals, whatever they may be.
The prospects for the day were exciting. It was our first trip to Maine for an all-too-brief family vacation. This was our first day in the park after a long day of driving to get there. It was late afternoon, the sky was a radiant blue, and the sun was starting to get lower on the horizon. We felt there was just enough time to get in a good hike to stretch our legs and start the vacation off right.
We wanted to climb to the highest point in the park: Cadillac Mountain. If the timing worked out, we should have stunning views of the entire area as the sun sank low on the horizon, casting everything in a golden glow. The family was excited and ready to get moving.
The helpful Park Ranger at the visitor center recommended we start by walking the Gorge Trail, then connect to the Summit Trail to get to the top. It was supposed to be beautiful, interesting, and a little challenging. Perfect!
We parked the car and easily found the well-marked trail head. The hike started beneath a beautiful arching stone bridge with a picturesque creek gurgling among mossy rocks.
I swatted a mosquito from my leg, and then we set off, following the stream uphill toward its source.
Pine trees provided cooling shade, the air felt fresh and clean, and a soft carpet of pine needles invited us to glide effortlessly along the path.
Another mosquito; slap!
We began to warm to the effort of the hike as it became steeper, and the pine needles underfoot gave way to rocks. The trail crossed and re-crossed the stream. We paused at a crossing to take in the beauty. I feel something on my leg. Slap! We need to keep moving.
The shade of the forest and the waters of the creek must have been the perfect environment for these little guys, because soon it seemed mosquitoes were everywhere. My daughter had used some bug spray, but it didn’t seem to help much. The ones around me seemed to favor my ears and legs. The cleverest ones discovered that my shoulder blades were the safest places to try to get their meal.
The trail got steeper, and the shade of the forest began to feel gloomy. Roughly placed stones formed a never-ending staircase that ascended steeply.
The mosquitoes were getting relentless.
We had water along and were getting thirsty. We were ready for a rest, but stopping was out of the question – it would just make us easier targets for the mosquitoes. We had to keep moving. It reminded me of a Winston Churchill quote:
As we climbed higher, the walls of the gorge seemed to close in. We couldn’t see very far, and the only options became up, down, or stop. We chose up.
Sometimes it felt we were on some sort of naturally occurring Stairmaster exercise machine. The only way to tell if we were making any progress was to sneak a look back from time to time to see the trail winding and twisting down below us.
After more rock hopping and stream crossings, the waterway finally seemed to dry up. And the higher we rose, the more of a breeze we could feel – the mountains were channeling the air between them. The mosquitoes were still with us, but maybe slightly less so. We hoped that was true.
Finally from up ahead my son shouted out that he had found the trail junction – we would turn west up the face of Cadillac Mountain and out of the gorge. Still too plaugued to rest, we forged ahead, stepping up from boulder to boulder. The trees became smaller and smaller as we climbed out of the gorge.
Now that we were out in the sunshine with a steady breeze, the mosquitoes were gone. We could finally pause for a drink of water and a look around. And what we saw was amazing. With the elevation we had gained, we could see the rocky cliffs of the mountain to the east – jagged, dangerous. Looking south through the gap formed by the two mountains, we could see a small sliver of ocean.
It had been invisible to us before. The excitement began to return as we got a first taste of what all that effort had accomplished. We paused for water and some photos.
Looking up, there seemed to be plenty more rocks to climb. The blue blazes marking the trail were painted directly onto the stones. Every few minutes as we climbed, we would pause and look around, and every time we did, we discovered the view had changed.
Soon we were as high as the mountain to the east, and before long, we were climbing above it and could begin to see some of the ocean and islands that lay beyond. To the north, the small town of Bar Harbor came into view, with its marina, and the surrounding Porcupine Islands.
Before long, we found that there was no higher that we could climb – we had reached the summit. The reward was a stunning panorama of the mountains, islands, and the sea in all directions. And we had gotten there just as the sun was bathing the world in a soft glow that photographers call the golden hour. The mosquitoes were all but forgotten as we breathed with deep satisfaction at finally reaching our goal.
Reaching Your Goals – The Takeaway
There is always going to be some distance between where you are and the goal you are trying to reach.
And like on our little hike, sometimes the space between the two can include the unexpected. The trail can become rocky, the bugs can start to swarm. There will be work and sweat involved.
For whatever journey you are on here are 10 things to keep in mind to help you in reaching your goals.
Visualize success. Develop a vision of what success looks like, imagine yourself experiencing it; share it with others to inspire your team.
Set your goals. Map out the path you want to take, set out clear intermediate goals, then take the steps you need to take to get you there.
Expect difficulty. Most worthwhile things don’t come easily. Start out with the expectation that you will find challenges along the way, no matter how rosy the picture seems to be right now. Be mentally prepared to face them.
Measure progress. Find some way to measure your progress and keep track. If you are on a Stairmaster, or moving backwards, you need to know!
Persevere. Keep going, even if it’s just one step, and then another; stay focused and keep moving.
Fight distraction. Stopping to swat at the mosquitoes doesn’t get you anywhere. If you let them bring you to a halt, they will suck you dry. Focus instead on doing the things that allow you to move forward.
Be flexible. If your goal is a good one, stick to it relentlessly. But be ready to adjust how you get there to fit the reality of your situation.
Celebrate accomplishment. If you only celebrate when you reach your final destination, there won’t be much partying going on. Look for the joys of small successes every day, and recognize that lots of small wins can grow into big ones.
Adjust your perspective. As you progress and overcome each obstacle, recognize that your perspective may change. You may be able to see more than you could before, or see things in a new light. Use that new vision to motivate your team and speed your progress.
Train the right muscles. The more obstacles you overcome, the stronger you become. If you practice being strong, you become stronger in the process; if you practice giving up, you can get good at that too.
Going through difficulty isn’t just about dealing with the challenge, it’s about how you change/adapt in the process.
This certainly wasn’t Mount Everest, and we weren’t overcoming great difficulties. It was just an afternoon hike with the family. But the ideas for reaching your goals are the same.
Do these things and you will be able to climb the rocky trail, work past the blood-suckers, and reach your goals, whatever they are.
Question: What would you add or change on this list? How can you ensure that how you change is for the good?
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