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Last week, I took a morning out from the job-hunt regimen to gain a little bit of personal focus, by climbing Mt Si. Yes I could have chosen an easier target but hey, good for what ails ye, right? The hike itself ended up being closer to twelve miles, due to the bus only stopping in North Bend and two miles shy of the trail-head, but no matter; makes for a nice warm-up before hitting the incline.

This time out I’d set myself a tighter target – two hours or less to reach the top of Haystack rock. Ultimately, I made it to the top in exactly two hours (to the minute) and succeeded in not suffering any ill effect that day or after, for cutting 30 minutes off my last hike. So, what new insights did I have for myself that I could apply to life in general? It turns out, more than one.

Understand the mechanisms that best work for you, to get the job done.

Does running as fast as you can until you get exhausted and then crawling the remainder of the way, really benefit the job in hand? That really depends. If all the variables are in place and nothing can be overlooked, the short sprint can be most exhilarating, but then the long, slow, winding down can be frustrating and invoke stumbling into other distractions. Burnout is a big danger and fatigue can cause a multitude of factors to creep in. What about a slow, steady approach? Lack of excitement can again lead to distraction and a mind that isn’t sufficiently stimulated, will often wander off to find it’s own remedy. For myself, I’ve learned that I operate best when I achieve just shy of a sprint. Pushing myself fast enough to constantly need to be aware, yet not so fast that I lose grasp of what I’m aiming for and, more importantly, don’t fade out before I have a chance to achieve my goal.

Set a hard but realistic target, but subconsciously allow forgiveness for not quite finishing everything on time.

The two hour target was something I considered reasonable, based on my previous hikes and my current fitness level. I almost didn’t quite make it, but continued to push myself forward, making adjustments along the way on the sections I needed to fight to control, and the milestones I needed to reach. If I hadn’t made it, I wouldn’t have been unhappy, as I had given my all. While walking the two miles in to the trail-head, I gave myself a pep-talk on what was expected and assured myself that, as long as I tried as hard as I could, I wouldn’t harbor guilt, if I couldn’t make it in time. This immediately took pressure off me to go beyond something I was capable of, and gave me enough breathing space, to not make costly mistakes. Targets are very important to keep a level of focus, but forgiveness of ourselves, changes the end effect from feeling like a pointless punch in the face, to a constructive understanding of being nearer to getting it right the next time.

Give time to savor the victory and reflect on what it took to get here.

I’m often guilty of trying to get the job done, just to check it off the list; this method yields zero life lessons. We need the opportunity to sit back and admire the good work we’ve done, understand our own processes that took us there and reflect on the parts that didn’t go to plan, so we can adjust for the next project.

These lessons are not just for inner growth but are applicable to work, business and relationships also. Finding the mechanisms that enable us to understand how we function, is another step toward personal enlightenment and better translating the manual for our individual lives. I’m fortunate enough to have found hiking as the Rosetta Stone for the manual to my life.