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8 Life Lessons I've Learned From Hiking

Mt. Charleston

Despite lightning storms and flash flood warnings throughout the valley, I still woke up yesterday with the intention to hike, packed my backpack, and was walking out the door, before I made the decision to stay at home. I didn’t want my lack of attendance to be held against me in the future, so I was going to force myself to do something I wasn’t comfortable doing to ensure that I could continue hiking with this group. As I reflected on this experience, I wondered how many times I’ve forced myself into uncomfortable situations off the trails as well. I realized that hiking has taught me several life lessons, by providing opportunities to take time away from the chaos of life and allowing for quiet self-reflection. Take a look at the list below and see how you can apply these lessons on and off the trails. Enjoy!

1. Look at the big picture

Any struggles or challenges I might be facing seem so insignificant when I look around me at the summit of a mountain, taking in the natural beauty, and can no longer see people, cars, or signs of human life. What an amazing reminder from Mother Nature to put things in perspective!

2. Trust your instincts

There have been times where I have a gut feeling that something on the trail is unsafe and I question whether or not I should proceed. Since the stakes are literally life or death on the trail, I have learned to trust my gut in these situations and listen to what my instinct is telling me.

3. Find your voice

It’s okay to say no. Just because someone else is doing something, doesn’t mean it is going to be safe or comfortable for you. And, remember, “no” is a complete sentence. Don’t feel obligated to explain yourself.

4. Use your support system

Your support system does matter. Are you surrounding yourself with people who help to pull you up or people who push you down? Are the people in your life encouraging you to keep going when times get tough? Do they respect your boundaries and limits? Having a solid support system can make a huge difference in the way I approach challenges. It’s nice to be able to rely on people that I know will provide me with the type of support I need when the going gets tough.

5. Stop comparing yourself to others

It’s human nature to make quick judgments about others, but you may be surprised by how off base these snap judgments really are. Remember, different does not mean better or worse. If you’re the type of person who looks at someone else and automatically calculates how you rank in comparison to that person, stop. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. Be open to the opportunity to learn from one another.

6. Change your mindset

The power of having a positive mindset has never been clearer than it is on a tough climb. Sometimes, I get to the point on a hike where my body is exhausted and my lungs are completely taxed due to the elevation -- where I can only make it a few feet further before needing another break. It’s in those moments where I think about quitting. My self-talk becomes critical and I tell myself that I can’t go any further. But, the reality is that my body can make it. I know I have the physical capacity to get up the mountain. It’s my mind that is the barrier. In these moments, I turn to positive affirmations or mantras to help me get through. This past weekend, on an especially tough climb, I reminded myself that even a small step forward is still progress.

7. Focus on your goals

The feeling of reaching the final summit is something that encourages me to push through any discomfort that comes up along the way. It’s imperative to know what you’re reaching for and why it is important to you. Just make sure that your goals are realistic. If they’re not realistic right now, try setting smaller goals to help you get closer to the really big ones! Start to slowly chip away at that big goal – for me that means adding mileage and elevation gain to my hikes in small increments. I know I am not prepared to climb Mt. Everest tomorrow. But, I also know that at this time last year, the hikes I’m doing now were out of the question, too.

8. Expect the unexpected

Life happens, whether we are prepared for it or not. Don’t move through life with your eyes closed. Know what can happen – even if you don’t want it to – and be prepared for how to handle it. When hiking, this means bringing more supplies than you will probably need, just in case something goes wrong. You don’t want to be stranded in the wilderness without your basic survival tools. The same applies to life. Cope ahead of time with emotional situations. Practice how to respond to crises when things are going well, so you are more prepared with how to deal with them if and when they really happen.

There you have it. I am reminded of these simple life lessons each time I hike and achieve a greater sense of self-awareness, peace, and clarity as a result of applying them both on and off the trails. If you are uncertain of how to apply these lessons in your own life, feel free to contact me to schedule your first session.

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