I was brought up in the Lake District, and have a real love of fell walking.
Many years ago I set off to walk up Skiddaw, one of the area’s highest mountains. Up until this particular walk, I’d always fooled myself that the walk wasn’t that far. Typically, I’d fix on a high point way in the distance, and convince myself that was the summit – only to be frustratedly let down when, on arrival, it proved to be only another little hillock on the way to the real summit. So typically, my walking experience in the high hills was a succession of anti-climaxes and false dawns until, exhausted, the real summit was achieved.
As usual, I fixed my eye on a high point in the distance, hoping it might be the real thing. After half an hour’s hard slog, I arrived at this point, and, as usual, found there was a more significant high point further on. So I sat down, got out a sandwich, and……looked back. And I realised that I’d actually made a lot of progress since setting off. In particular, I could see things that I hadn’t been able to see before. Whereas when I set off I was in the trees, now I was above them. Whereas at the start I couldn’t see Bassenthwaite Lake for the woodland, now the Lake was fully visible below. As I put on my rucksack for the next ‘leg’, and fixed on a high point some distance away, my mindset had now changed. I knew – really knew – that this was not the ultimate summit, but only a staging post on the way. But what was now motivating me towards the next stage was to wonder what the view would be like from there.
So as I walked up Skiddaw, I did so consciously through a series of stages, each one of which confirmed the progress I was making, and affording me a new and better view than the one before. Before I knew it, I was at the top.
It was a perfect example of the oft-heard phrase‘break it down into bite-size chunks’. The walk, and future projects, did not seem so massive, the destination so far away, when smaller targets or
milestones could be the focus. But most important was the refocusing, or reframing, involved: from what still lay ahead, to what had already been achieved. Ever since the Skiddaw walk, I have focused on progress made in the early stages, each stage pushing me on to the next stage, where the additional progress can be appreciated and acknowledged. Only when the real and final summit is actually in view have I used that to pull me to completion. Finally, of course, the walk illustrated another oft-heard saying: make sure you stop to smell the roses….I can assure you there are no roses on the side of Skiddaw, but after this walk I saw all future lengthy walks (and projects) as opportunities to appreciate what has been achieved so far, and to reflect on that achievement, acknowledge it, and take it in. It is as
much about the journey as it is about the destination….
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