This is the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. My family and I visited here last year. We were not prepared for what the climb would ask of us and we had no plan for how we were going to make it to the top. Needless to say, our two teenage sons made it to the top – tired but fine – and my husband and I cried “Enough!” about halfway up. This year, we returned with advice from those who had successfully climbed it before and we had a plan for making it to the top. The boys teamed up and struck out on their own plan – different from ours but with the same destination. My husband and I teamed up and put our plan into action. We had both been doing a lot of stair work the past couple of months in preparation so we would be used to what the climb would ask of us. We also had a plan of attack – walking the ridges or “spines” of the dunes – and took a couple of minutes to make sure we still liked our chosen path. Then – we started out. We took turns taking the lead. Sometimes we followed in each other’s footsteps and other times we had to find our own path because – well, we’re built differently and not every option works for everybody. We chose frequent stopping points to encourage ourselves and get our bearings (and our breath!) We took our time and worked at our own pace. Towards the end, the going got steeper and way was tougher. The stopping points went down to a new mantra – 40 steps. We’d count them off and stop, breathe, and go again another 40 steps. When that started to get too hard, we went down to 25 steps. At that point, our sons – who were at the top and watching our progress – decided to “fish” for us by coming back down to where we were and encouraging us in so the whole team could make it to the top this time. Countless “25 steps” later – we were there!
I’m thinking about this as I get ready to go back to my work in my school. There were so many lessons I learned from this that apply to life, work, and personal growth in general. One of my personal mantras this year will be “40 steps”. It reminds me that the scariest, most impossible goal can be accomplished if you stay calm and take it “40 steps” at a time. My other mantra . . .
just start. At some point the first step has to be taken, and the decision to take it has to be made. Then – you just have to choose to keep starting again after each “40 steps” along the way. After all these years, I’m finally thinking winning isn’t a single event, but the culmination of a lot of little decisions not to give up or give in along the way. It’s not a profound thought – but it’s having a profound effect on me as I apply it to my life – both professionally and personally.
So what experiences do you pull from to get your mantras for your challenges?