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Motivation - The Metaphor of Hiking in the Dark

Motivation - Hiking in the Dark

As I was on a morning hike today, I really reflected on where I am in my fitness journey, and how motivation has really driven my successes and changed my path.

If you had asked me 6 or even 3 months ago to go for a hike I would have said no.

A hike at 5am? Hell no

A 5 mile hike, with elevation, at 5am when it is 89 degrees and I only have 90 minutes before my meeting?

I think you can guess the answer to that!

My life has changed significantly in the last 6 months, and as I think back to when this started, the metaphor of hiking in the dark really resonates.

In February, my target (my mountain) was simply to lose some weight so that I could enjoy a friend’s wedding.

When Covid came along, my summit changed, and as my metaphorical hike continued, bigger peaks became the target. One month became 3.

Then, after 3 months, I realized that to maintain what I had achieved, I needed to augment my good food habits with exercise.

My motivation has largely remained the same - I wanted to lose weight, be healthy and frankly, to live longer for my family.

My route and peaks are changing.

The hiking in the dark metaphor is similar to the question of “how do you eat an elephant”? You have to focus on each step of your journey, not the end goal. Every step contributes to the overall mission.

There will be mis-steps, stumbles and maybe falls, but you have to re-align, get back up and continue.

Like hiking in the dark, the focus on the individual steps gives you small successes (losing a few pounds, consuming less calories) that lead to a peak (dropping a clothes size). But also like hiking in the dark, when the sun comes up, the sense of success achieved may be overwhelmed with the realization of how far there is still to go.

On my literal hike today, I reflected on so many positives, but also the negatives came to mind. Positives that I got to the previous high point of my hike in about 45 minutes, and then I went even further.

The low point (at least initially) was that I did not get to the top (time constraints). Then I realized, it just set another target to motivate me. I will get to the top of the hike to see the sunrise. I will change my tactics, start earlier, go faster but still will need the individual steps to succeed.

I also reflected on the big picture that was motivating me. Getting to the top was self-motivation - a desire to hit a milestone for me personally - no one else is going to care or be impacted by me getting to the top.

I wanted (and still want) to do it to see the sunrise (so maybe my motivation is posting a cool picture and getting some likes?)

Coming down I was struck by the macro drivers.

I needed to go fast so that my wife could get on a conference call and I could watch our daughter.

And then something remarkable (and a real milestone for me) happened - I started running up and down the trail. Me...running,...on a trail - mind blown. My little steps in the dark have all contributed to being able to take much bigger steps.

The motivator was not burning calories, or dropping weight (all steps on my personal hike) but making good on a promise (which everyone who knows me will tell you is probably my biggest motivator).

Motivation is incredibly personal, and you have to focus on the things that motivate you.

It is why it is so hard to help motivate others. What makes you tick may not mean anything to someone else. So try to understand both the small steps in the dark and the mountain that someone is trying to climb (whether physical or metaphorical!).

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