Updated: May 12, 2020
Have you ever set a challenge for yourself, where you weren’t entirely sure about how you could achieve your goal? Going on a solo tramping trip on New Zealand’s remote Stewart Island taught me more life skills than 13 years at school.
When I went on my first solo trip, a 3-Day Great Walk in New Zealand, I left it too late to book the huts. So I had to camp in a tiny tent in the cold and wet autumn of April. I knew I had chosen a huge challenge as I was not super fit at the time and going to stay for 3 nights in the bush carrying all my belongings in a backpack. I had just started training when some health issues forced me to slow down and eventually stop my training altogether, only weeks before the tramp.
When I decided on the trip, I booked my travel arrangements straight away. There was no way out, no turning back. I was committed.
Without phone reception I headed off on my own and into the adventure of almost untouched bush land. I was nervous about my health, but never doubted my goal.
In the weeks leading up to the trip, whenever I noticed worry kicking in, I would shift my focus back toward the purpose and outcome of the trip. I would make myself concentrate on the excitement of the challenge and the opportunity for personal growth. Even as I embarked on the tramp with mixed feelings, I pulled myself back to have faith in the positive outcome.
On the way to the start of the track I ended up making a huge detour of about 2,5 hours. I hadn’t done adequate research and overestimated my own capabilities when I chose a ‘little side-track’. My shoulders burnt 30 minutes into the walk, as I had hardly been able to train with any weight. I was wet from the rain, tired and sore before I hit the official track. Checking my phone for the time I realised, the side-track had taken me much longer than anticipated and I now had to hurry to make it to the campground in daylight. Hurrying while exhausted, tired, wet and uncomfortable… Opportunity for growth, right? 😉
To carry on the following day was another challenge. What would expect me this time? After a day of rest, I thought I’d be fit and energised for the next part of the tramp. Surely, the 4-5 hours to the next hut, as stated in the guide, would be flying past. “I can do this in 3-4 hours easily” I thought to myself and overestimated my capabilities again.
There were no signs on the track showing how far you still had to go, which made it easy to get lost in your own thoughts (and hopes). This part of the track stayed inland, which means there were no natural indications, views, rivers, etc. to help with orientation. Just tree after tree, fern after fern.
Basically, you’re either at your destination, or you’re not. There is was in-between on the track. I can’t remember how long it took me to complete the distance that day, it would have been about 5 hours with a couple of short breaks.
But the most impactful thing happened on the hardest part of journey: Thinking I should arrive at the next campground any time soon, I got more impatient and frustrated with every step on the way. Alone with my thoughts, tired muscles and sore back in the New Zealand bush after months of wanting to make this happen so badly, I was getting angry. I got angry with myself for not being fitter, for not being faster, or more efficient. But still no sign. After over 3 hours of tramping through never changing bush and no sign of progress, I had a realisation:
this was all in my head: I chose to be impatient and get frustrated about not arriving at a place where I simply was not supposed to be at this point in time.
Even though I knew I was on the right track, which would eventually lead me to where I wanted to go. I was free to choose, to make this trip either uncomfortable for myself or decide to enjoy the journey. It was not easy at the time, but at least on that day I managed to put my mind at ‘rest’. I worked on getting myself into a state, that whether this campsite appeared in 10 minutes or 10 hours, it wouldn’t matter. There was no difference in this moment, I would simply need to keep moving towards it.
That moment, a weight lifted off my shoulders. I realised that I didn’t have to, neither was I able to ‘make it happen’ quickly. All I had to do was follow the track and have faith I was going to get there eventually.
My job was not to force my destination to turn up, my job was to look after myself while following the path I had chosen months ago, knowing it was going to lead me to my destination.
Once you are clear on the destination, trust in the process and enjoy the journey.
Anything else would be cheating yourself and robbing yourself of the opportunity to learn and truly take in the magic around you. I looked at the native bush and ferns differently after that. I managed to enjoy the beauty of the nature around me and to focus on the moment.
When I now see myself in front of a big challenge, I remind myself that having a clear goal is EVERYTHING. I remind myself of the day that all I could see was bush and trees, but the map didn’t lie. I knew I was going to get there. I am now able to translate the feelings of that day into any difficult situation and make myself calm down, reflect and have faith that I am on the right path, while tying every step to my goal. The question I am now asking is:
Can this step bring me closer to my overall goal?
The focus is on closer: We don’t have to get caught up into ‘how close’ or how much time is this step taking away from the time it will still take me to get to the goal. These thoughts, I’m speaking from experience, will move your focus inwards and away from your destination, increasing your personal suffering, versus being able to enjoy the journey and travel well.
Plan your destination, break it down into multiple steps and don’t get caught up in just ‘getting there’. When we learn to focus on what’s around us while keeping our goal in mind, we will find it much easier to enjoy the beautiful experiences we encounter along the way.
In business this means: Know your destination, have a 10-year plan and keep working towards that goal. But focus on the next step only, complete this step as best as you can and stay open to recognise the opportunities along the way, while enjoying the journey. If you were constantly looking at your overall goal, you would quickly feel stressed, overwhelmed and soon be unable to focus on what is important for you to do today.
My 3 top Tips:
Lay out everything you want to take on your trip. Take out a third. Lay everything out again. Take out a third again. This is the maximum amount of gear you should be travelling with, particularly clothes. I have found this advice helpful for both, packing your bags AND facing a project. Keep it simple and 'good' is good enough.
Never doubt your goal based on whether you think you can achieve it. As the path opens up in front of you, you will recognise new opportunities and resources.
Make and adjust decisions based on experience, never based on worry or fear. Seek advice from people who have done exactly what you are wanting to accomplish.
Which personal experiences have helped you on your business journey?
Comment with your best tips.