Step forward toward your goals
From the unknown, to familiar, to conquered, to what’s next?!
As I was walking the Blue Hill Loop last week with my beloved, Bud, it occurred to me that the first time I walked this 2.5 mile loop, it felt far more difficult and I wasn’t certain I’d make it. It was new and unfamiliar territory and surprisingly up hill. Randy was walking at an incredibly fast clip and there were times I was struggling to keep up. (And, I was the one who was supposed to be in shape!).
I remember asking several times how much farther we had to go. I didn’t know where I was, how far into the journey, or how to get home. The uncertainty was nagging at me.
When my Mom visited in July, we walked the Loop and she reacted the same way that I did that first time. It felt challenging and she kept asking how much farther and if there was a short cut. (To my Mom’s credit, she is in her 70’s and was brave enough to tackle the walk!)
I can’t help wonder if sometimes the fear of the unknown stops us short of taking on new things…of really going for our big, hairy, audacious goals — or even doing little things because they are unfamiliar. We worry they might be difficult, we might not succeed, and the outcome is uncertain.
But on this day, as I walked the Blue Hill Loop for maybe the 60th+ time, I found myself pondering not how far I had to go or whether I would make it, but rather how I could step it up a notch. I was thinking about a new aggressive hike that I could tackle every day in about the same amount of time. One that would be far more challenging. This Loop — while I love it — has gotten easy and familiar. That’s not a bad thing, but I found myself in search of the next challenge. I wanted to take it to the next level.
This got me thinking…
I’ve found that almost always when I step forward and do something despite my fear, I discover it wasn’t anywhere near as difficult or scary as I made it out to be in my mind. In fact, I actually get a high from facing my fears and overcoming them. And then momentum sets in. I feel accomplished and nothing can stop me! Have you ever experienced this? I bet you have.
My theory — based on personal experience — is that the act of taking the leap and going for it despite our fear actually propels us forward. We want to do it again, and again, until it becomes familiar and comfortable. We find ourselves looking forward to it — wanting/needing to do it. Then, often, we conquer it to the point where the challenge isn’t there anymore and we find ourselves wondering, “what next?” This is the gift!
So why is it so hard?
Because we’re human beings, I think. It’s that simple. Before I put myself in the equation and made my health and wellness a top priority, I let the fear of the unknown stop me in so many things — big and small. Fear of failure, of being out of my comfort zone, of what others would think — it held me back, kept me stuck and kept my life small.
I remember my friend, Jimbo, encouraging me to get out and walk around my block. “Just walk to the end of the block, Lor, and then maybe you can get around the whole block,” he would say out of concern for my health. Well, I live in the center of the block so this was not far, but at 381 lbs and as someone drowning in lost hope, I couldn’t bring myself to push past the fear of the unknown, the uncomfortableness, or the embarrassment to walk even half a block. It became my excuse. Thus, for years, I never did walk to the end of the block. I remained stuck in my small and limiting life.
Fast forward a few years, and now I’m walking 2.5 miles every morning just as a warm up — to jump-start my day. It’s routine and I look forward to it! Just telling this story makes me smile.
The same thing happened when I was in weight-loss boot camp and first tackled Oberg Mountain on the North Shore of Lake Superior. This time, I really didn’t have much choice. I had signed up for (and agreed not to quit) the weight-loss boot camp. I was “all-in” despite my overwhelming fear. This was only Day 2 and my first-ever mountain climb. I was terrified and didn’t want to do it. Not only did I have to haul my 381 lb bundled-up obese body up and around that mountain trail, but I had to do it in awkward snowshoes!
We weren’t even 1/8 of a mile into the climb when I started asking my trainer, Leif, how much farther we had to go. I asked no less than a “gazzilion” times — probably every few feet! Right up to the point where fear got the best of me and, although my heart was racing and he advised me not to come to a complete stop, I sat down on a log to rest. I immediately started to hyperventilate. At the time, I thought I was having a heart attack, but it turns out it was a panic attack. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was just steps from the path down the mountain when I freaked out and let my fear take over.
I’ve now climbed Oberg Mountain no less than 50 times. I got to the point where I asked, “What next?” What is bigger and tougher so I can challenge myself at a whole new level. I now climb mountains in Acadia National Park and wherever I travel for fun and the personal challenge. I love it! And I constantly find myself trying to conquer something that challenges me, and then asking “What next?!”
So today I ask you, what if you stepped forward…one step at a time, despite your fear? What would happen? What could you conquer? Where would you be in three months, six months, a year?
Today, I’m pondering how many times in life we let the fear of the unknown stop us from achieving our goals, from going for what we really want in life. And, I’m pondering the HUGE possibilities and potential of going for it, pushing past our fear so that this new thing we’re afraid of becomes known, then familiar, then conquered. How damn exciting to take ourselves to the next level. The point where we can ask: What next?!
I now live my life with far less fear and far more conquering because I know that I can do absolutely anything that I set my mind to. I know that the unknown — while maybe a little scary at first — will become familiar and easier, and then I will conquer it, and eventually I’ll want to take it to the next level.
So now, when I am feeling scared or stuck because of the fear of the unknown, I remind myself that I can do anything and I take a step forward…toward my goal. One step, and then another, and then …
How cool is that?!