Have you ever soldiered on with something because you started it and you were determined to finish it, even though it ended up giving you little pleasure and the final outcome wasn’t really what you wanted? I certainly have. I’m persistent to a fault. But I learned something while hiking up a beautiful mountain, and it might help you too, so here we go.
Cradle Mountain in the island state of Tasmania is one of Australia’s most iconic hiking destinations. And every now and then, a hiker actually gets to see it. 😉 I was one of the lucky few– it wasn’t hidden by cloud the days I was there. And although I was intimidated by it (I’m a bit average as a hiker, I’m scared of heights and I have quixotic knees that turn into pumpkins during long descents and for two weeks after) I wanted to tick it off my “bucket list”.
Let’s face it, if I’m honest I wanted to be able to say, “I climbed Cradle Mountain,” somewhat more than I truly wanted to actually climb the thing. But I wasn’t admitting that to my self, no siree.
As I set off at dawn with my hiking buddy, the Pocket Rocket, everything was in our favour. We were prepared and equipped, and the weather was shaping up to be gorgeous. We had great snacks (best part of hiking 😉 ) and all the gear we’d need if the weather did one of those sudden mountain changes. It was one of those days when anything was possible.
And then we got to the last stage of the climb, and I had an unpleasant reality check. It’s quite a civilised hike most of the way. You are romping across alpine meadows singing like Julie Andrews, and then suddenly BAM, you’re up against a virtual cliff face. Not a hike but a scramble, very steep and very exposed. (If you’ve done it 17 times blindfolded with one hand tied behind your back, this may not be the most tactful time to mention it. 😉 ) I’d been hoping it would look easier when we got up close, as mountains often do, but it just looked harder.
Because the weather was so good and I was feeling determined, I figured I could overcome my fear of heights for the sake of another tick on the Bucket List.
But what about the knees? What goes up must come down. I was at the beginning of a two-week hiking tour of Tasmania. If I wrecked my knees on this first major hike, what would I be sacrificing? This hike was a Bucket List item, but there were so many beautiful hikes ahead that I might have to forgo.
And so as the Pocket Rocket and I sat and ate snacks at the little hut before the climb, I had one very difficult decision to make. I agonised about it. It was so very hard for me to even consider the slightest possibility that I might have to give up. What would my fearless hiking buddy think of me? What would people think of me when I got home and had to admit I was a failure? More importantly, what would I think of me?! I’m no quitter!
But this is the realisation I was forced to make. Maybe you already know it. But because it’s so important, I’m going to put it in big letters.
The decision to do something is also the decision NOT to do something else.
Now that fact is not so hard to see when we’re deciding between chocolate or vanilla ice cream for dessert. But when the decision is something we’re really passionate about, or emotionally invested in, or have imagined ourselves doing for years, sometimes we get tunnel vision. All we can see is the goal, without weighing up whether it’s worth the cost.
Does this ever happen to you? Think about it:
- If I pursue that promotion, what will I be giving up in terms of flexibility/time with loved ones/fitness goals?
- If I dedicate my time to writing my book/training for a marathon/helping the homeless, what will I effectively decide not to do in those many hours?
- If I study to improve my qualifications, I will potentially gain A and B, but what is the hidden C and D that I might forgo as a result?
The thing we’re pursuing might be a very good thing. We just need to make sure our dedication to it isn’t so blind that we miss out on an even better thing!
And so I didn’t climb that last bit of Cradle Mountain that day. I felt humiliated. And I pouted about it, let me tell ya, sitting there in the cold for a couple of hours waiting for my hiking buddy to return, watching other happy hikers traipse on past on their way to my goal! 😉
But I realised I’d made a good decision in the days that followed when I got to enjoy hiking the Bay of Fires, Wineglass Bay, Maria Island and the Labillardiere Peninsula. I could hike them because I hadn’t destroyed my knees by pursuing a goal that wasn’t a wise choice for me. Maybe one day in the future I’ll go back and do the Cradle Mountain summit, when I don’t need to walk and walk in the days that follow.
I gave up on a good thing, and I got a better thing.
What do you think? Have you ever realised you were about to pursue something good when you could have had something better?
Laura Zera says
Good call on your part, Belinda! It’s hard to let a goal go, even in the context of the bigger picture. I once had a goal to try every kind of cheesecake in the world, but I’ve had to let that one go, too. 😛
Belinda Pollard says
Never let go of your dream, Laura. Haha 😉
Monica Comas says
Hi, Belinda–I just read this and wow, it was exactly what I needed to read today. Thanks so much for the inspirational words! Your blog is lovely!
Belinda Pollard says
Thank you Monica, and it’s lovely to have you drop by. I continually struggle with this one myself, but as the decades pass I’m learnin’… just a little bit. 🙂
Carina Tan-Van Baren says
Thanks Belinda. This post is so perfect for where my head is at the moment. I do focus more on deciding to ‘do’ than ‘not to do’, which leads to me doing a lot of great stuff but also sacrificing things that I cherish, like time with my kids. Will remember your lesson the next time an ‘opportunity’ comes up!
Belinda Pollard says
Ah Carina, you are right, so often we push ourselves to “do” rather than “be”.
Productivity and achievement are great, but sometimes hiding shyly behind them is something even better…
Thanks for stopping by!
Nadine Feldman says
What a great post! We often get so caught up in the “just do it” mentality that we don’t pace ourselves. We start to think we’ve failed if we treat ourselves with self-care. I love the way you reframed your decision in a positive way.
Belinda Pollard says
Thanks Nadine. Self-care = failure??? Why do we tell ourselves such rubbish!
I like your post about silencing the “inner mean girl”*. Good one!
* For others, find Nadine’s post here http://nadinefeldman.com/2012/04/12/inner-mean-girls-or-better-late-than-never/