I enjoy physical challenges and I have run a number of marathons in my life. I’ve hiked the Overland Track in Tasmania, Inca Trail in Peru, Mount Kinabalu in Borneo and the Annapurna area of Nepalese Himalayas. Perhaps my proudest and most enjoyable achievement though was when I hiked the thousand-kilometre Bibbulmun Track in Western Australia.
I remember the thoughts I had the evening before I started. It was the middle of summer at the forecast temperature for the next day was 40C. I had planned well and I was in good physical condition but the sheer enormity of the task ahead filled my thoughts. 1000km is a long way to drive but here I was about to walk through the heat of summer carrying all I needed on my back.
As I set out that morning on what would be an epic seven-week journey, I was reminded of the words of the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu. He famously said that “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” Although my destination was only a thousand kilometres, from where I stood it seemed like a thousand miles! As tentatively began, these words were my inspiration. It was the reassurance that every journey, even the longest, begins from where you stand. To have any hope of reaching your destination you must actually take that first step.
In reality though, my journey actually began months before. My first step on that hot February day was the beginning of the walk but there was something that propelled me toward that moment. A very powerful force and determining factor that once harnessed, left me no choice but to become active. It was the fuel that not only ignited my dream, but carried me through with unwavering focus to the end.
So, what was this decisive force, this motivating factor that guaranteed I’d take action, pass landmarks and fulfil my dream? The answer is my DECISION. Before I could ever stand at the beginning to the track and take that first physical step, I had to decide that I actually wanted to. Making that resolute decision outlined the direction to my destination and meant I could then find the means and course by which to reach it.
This example is a very literal way to view the proverb but it can be used as inspiration, whatever our journey in life. We all have a journey to complete. Some of us travel placidly within comfortable, familiar spaces while others are more adventurous and strive to keep moving and exploring. They do this by taking definitive steps toward what they want to achieve but the first one is always the most important. They decide to begin and this facilitates their subsequent actions.
The journey may be long and the first step may seem a long time ago. The road may stretch on to the horizon and beyond. In these times, it is important to remember that happiness is a means of travel, not a destination. In other words, enjoy and have fun on your journey. On the Bibbulmun Track, there wasn’t a single day that I didn’t wake up feeling excited and inspired about what I was doing. I treasured the opportunity that I created for myself and savoured the adventure. When I finally reached the track terminus I had a sense of sadness but I didn’t cry because it was over, I smiled because it happened.
Obviously I also experienced a huge sense of joy and accomplishment when I finished. It’s important to rest a while and enjoy the glory of your achievement. Share it with those you love; be proud and let them be proud of you. Enjoy those moments because they are yours and you’ve earned them but remember that the adulation will eventually fade. By then, you’ll be refreshed and ready for the next opportunity. It’s time to take the first step of the next journey.
The journey that we speak of is one towards a dream destination; goals are what we set to reach our dreams. They are vital because they break down the overall distance into smaller and less daunting objectives. They allow progress to be monitored and an interim sense of achievement. This was a key to completing the long distance hike. As I celebrated reaching various milestones it removed from my focus the large task that still lay ahead of me.
This same philosophy can be applied to just about any of our journeys in life. If you want to lose weight, set your goals at a kilogram at a time and rejoice in each one that disappears. If you want to become wealthy, be realistic about it. It’ll never happen overnight unless you win the lottery and it’ll rarely happen in a short space of time. Earning money in a legitimate way is a process and takes time. But as I’ve already outlined, the journey begins with a single step which is simply the committed decision to take an opportunity.
Life will easily offer you reasons why something can’t or shouldn’t be done. To succeed, we have to look past these and see why something should be done. I climb a mountain not because it’s steep, dangerous or cold at the top. I do it for the amazing view and sense of triumph standing at the peak. A life dominated by negative thoughts will only lead to sadness and disappointment. Twenty years from now, you will regret the things that you didn’t do more than what you did do.
Live with a spirit of adventure and take opportunities that come your way. Don’t be hindered by hesitation and doubt. Trust yourself and let your decision empower you to move confidently in the direction of your dreams. Take the first step of the journey and enjoy where it takes you.
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