We were on a recent vacation on some pretty tough, really rewarding (and did I mention hard?) hikes in places we had not been before. On one hike we were to go in a few miles on a non-maintained trail to experience, as our guidebook said, an “incredible!” view and hike back out. The hike turned out to be harder than one might imagine: mud, elevation, brambles and dense foliage that we needed to push through at times. Our feet were muddy, our arms and legs were scratched. We carried on and got to a view—not one that I would classify as “incredible!,” but pretty darn good, if you leaned a certain way and looked between some trees. The path seemed to get smaller and sketchy ahead, and we figured we’d done our hike and could turn around.
Within a few minutes of turning around we came upon the only other people on the trail that we knew of. They seemed puzzled that we weren’t going to go to the end since we had, as they said, “slogged” through this far. We said we had surmised we were at the end. But no. They came prepared with an app that showed that we weren’t at the end. And even though I wasn’t quite sure I believed them or their app (after all, there was no service on that trail), we headed back to the “end”. Again.
Within another 20 minutes we were, to my surprise, traversing a trail with no brambles, no mud, and utterly breathtaking panoramic views—a place that was so beautiful, it almost seemed unreal.
As I stood there looking at the views, I thought about how close we were to, not exactly giving up, but stopping short. We didn’t expect there to be more, and felt there was no going forward to go to. We were on the cusp of settling for the small view, of turning around without fully going for it, and—perhaps worse—never even having known we stopped so short.
Of course, it isn’t just on hikes that this happens. How often do we shy away from fully advancing a conversation? Finding hope? Sharing a truth? Asking for help? Offering help? Learning something? Teaching something? Building trust? How frequently do we find ourselves thinking that we’ve given all we thought we should, and then turn around, stop? At these times when we’ve slogged on, but have not truly arrived, we may feel slightly disappointed and we tend to console ourselves that we attempted.
There’s a saying: There is no trying; there is only doing or not doing.
What would happen if we tried harder to see what’s around the next bend, hill or challenge?
When we stop short of giving our all, we don’t truly engage, support, fail or succeed. We’re just stopping at a “safe” spot.
And then, perhaps we need to be open to those on our paths who encourage us to take that extra step.
“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”—Edmund Hillary