#ShowingUp with Anese Cavanaugh

Life is nothing but a hike…all you need to know is on the trail…

I hiked about 28 miles last week. Real “hiked”. Not the kind of hiking you do on flat ground, on a trail, in the park, real, full on, “mountains, boulders, rocks, lava, slick rock, switch backs, mochi ball, cacti, watch for snakes, scorpions, hila monster, heart rate hiiiiighh, altitude adjust please, second skin, hiking boots a good idea, camel backs necessary, need a massage afterwards” hiking…It was great. I’m always in my glory in the mountains (part of the reason I was happy to move back to the West Coast), and I find it a great place to do this work with my clients. Years ago, my first job out of college was as the Fitness Director for a hiking retreat in California. I didn’t realize then how much that job would influence how I evolved my work with clients years later in my own little organization. Every time I hike, and even every time I train period, but hiking especially, I am reminded of how great the metaphor for life hiking actually is. Add in a client or participant or twelve, and the metaphors come flying in! Here are just 7 things to keep in mind on the “hike” of your life…grab your boots and hit a trail and see how these things resonate for you. For those of you who joined me for the “Leading With Boots On™” Hike last week, you’ll get a nice refresher here. (And this doesn’t even have the half of it! More later perhaps!) :-)

  1. Life is like a hike…Some parts of it are smooth and fairly flat, pretty easy to navigate; you could almost do it in your sleep…while other parts are not. They have prickly things to watch out for, tall slick rock to scale, all sorts of twists and turn, cliffs and edges everywhere, and demand an extra push to get through. These parts of life require an even greater level of presence, energy and intention to move through.
  2. Once you go up that mountain…you’re going to have to come down somehow. It may be a very different path, but you’re going to have to come out. You can’t get up the mountain and decide, “Whoops, I don’t want to do it anymore”, you have to follow through and get off the mountain, even if just for safety. When we’re tired, annoyed, “done”….sometimes life requires that we catch our breath, get present, reboot, and head out. Another place that can work wonders here is the power of a reframe….remember, it’s not that you’re going “back” (in going down), it’s actually that you are moving “forward” and stepping into something else…Play with this one. It’s powerful.
  3. “Trust the tread”…There’s a saying that hike guides use that I fell in love with especially this last week…it just fit so well. It’s “trust the tread” which means that when you’re walking down slick rock (it’s this rock that is like sand paper and usually quite steep – I felt like Spider Woman many times last week), you have to point your toes forward, sit into you heel, and trust the tread of your boots as you go down. If you don’t, you can psyche yourself out, step wrong, slip, turn an ankle, etc. But if you trust the tread…it’s amazing what you can do. I find this no different than navigating life, whether it’s personally or in an organization. Make sure you have the right boots on (they fit you, they feel right, they’re good quality, they’re yours – really yours), make sure you know where you’re going, and go. Even though it may feel a little (or a lot) scary, or you feel like you may slip, trust the tread. Ask for help if you need it, but stay present and trust that tread. And before you know it you’re through it and likely have done something you hadn’t imagined possible.
  4. Whatever is going on ON the trails is a metaphor for what may be going on IN your life. If you move fast to keep up with the others at the risk of injuring yourself, where else are you doing that in your business or personal life? If you hang back because you don’t want to stand out on the trail, where is that happening in your life? If you are having a hard time balancing on the rocks because you are losing presence or not focused on the current moment, where might you be doing the same in your life? Where are you out of balance because you’re not present or have gone unconscious? If you are starting to get a blister, but don’t want to slow down to have it patched (which will save you a world of pain and aggravation and likely even prevent you skipping the next hike), where are you getting “nigglings” of pain in your business or life that you’re not slowing down to take care of? I could go on and on… (and I likely will in future articles!)
  5. Ask for what you need…When you’re hiking and you need a break, stop. When you want to enjoy the view stop. Take a moment to look back and look around to see where you’ve come and where you are going. When you need a band-aid or some second skin, do it now…don’t tough it out and hope it’ll go away. The bloody heel at the bottom of the mountain is preventable. So is the leadership mess you may create if you’re not staying present to what you need…and asking for it.
  6. Don’t look down, except for when you have to. When you’re scaling the mountain, scrambling, grabbing rocks, dodging sliders, it’s important to stay focused and keep looking at where you’re going. Stay focused on that end point…and forget about what’s below you (whether it’s 1,000 feet or 3,000, etc.) Looking down, you lose focus on the present and what’s moving forward, and you have a great chance of psyching yourself out. When you’re on a mission in your life, or leading your team/business, it’s key to stay present and be aware and ready for those “sliders”, being focused in the moment is essential. Being focused on the vision and the goal/outcome ahead is crucial. Looking down and checking “am I doing a good job”, “what lurks below me”, can take you off focus and whoops! Footing lost. That being said, when you have people climbing behind you, or below you (i.e. your team), or you need to check for safety sake…looking down may be just as essential. Guiding rule? If you’re going to look down, stay present, stay connected to the task at hand – and the vision, and look down and back quickly.
  7. Celebrate your progress. I am always befuddled, though I can often relate, to this scenario. A team/individual hikes from peak to peak (project to project), focused and fully engaged in the task at hand. Driven to reach the next peak (benchmark in the project), giving it all they’ve got, pushing it to the max, going going going…it’s all that matters (are you with me on the energy and intensity of this? My guess is you’ve been there, I know I have!) And when they complete it…what do they do? They’re off to the next peak, the next project, the next benchmark. This is where stopping to smell the roses, look back at the trail, acknowledge the process and who you/your team had to “be” to get to that point, is critical. This is a celebration point. When I hiked with folks last week, for some, just agreeing to do the hike was a point of celebration – it was out of their comfort zone, for others, it was getting to the top of a 10 mile hike (up 5 and another 5 to go down the other side) that was one of their points of celebration, and for others (and I’d venture all), the learning that they got from stepping out of comfort zones, and “getting their boots on”, were points of celebration. Celebrate…the big, the bad, the beautiful and even the ugly…for all of it contributes to who you are and EVERY SINGLE thing is an opportunity for learning and stepping even more into yourself.

So there you have it; 7 things to think about in the hike of your life. My invitation to you is to notice what’s up in your life (and even in your organization as a whole) and find the links. If you were hiking on the peaks right now, what would you need to do, who would you need to be, to navigate up and down and come to the end outcome you’re seeking? Who would you need to be to stay conscious with the adventure? And how would you celebrate? Where can you get those boots on? Always thinking…