When I graduated from college back in the dark ages, I was determined to be a millionaire by the time I was thirty. I rolled up my sleeves, put my head down, and went to work. Of course, like most of my great life plans, the universe had a different story for me to live. By the time I was thirty, I was married with three children, homesteading on 27 acres in upstate New York, milking goats, living in a twelve by twenty foot cabin, building field stone walls, and living off the land.
Are you someone that started out life as determined to reach your goals and achieve success as I was? If so, you too have probably changed the adjectives that you’re using. When I began the journey, tenacious and determined were the words that defined my approach to life. The also conjure up the picture of a person who was probably pushing life too hard; a person that was too familiar with stress and frustration. They certainly fit me in the early years of my life.
I discovered that tenacious and determined people tend to bury themselves under a mountain of goals and objectives; tasks that have to be obsessively checked off the list on the way to achieving those goals and objectives. Those adjectives also define a person who has lost touch with their heart energy, and the deeper soul energies, that one needs to effectively guide the journey called life.
Our primitive ego is focused on security, safety, and maintaining control. When our primitive ego is in control of our lives, we become tenacious and determined on the journey toward whatever goal we believe will help us feel safe—or strengthen our self-identity. We see this kind of behavior in the work environment. We see it when the goal is weight loss. We see it when the goal is financial success. We see it in anyone whose goal is attached to the concept of perfection.
People who are tenacious and determined believe that success comes to those who are willing to roll up their sleeves, take a deep breath, plant their feet, and begin pushing the heavy rock called success straight up to the peak of the mountain——no matter how exhausting or difficult that task might be——or who might be standing in the way.
It didn’t take me long to learn that when we make a goal or a task too difficult, it’s too easy to come up with excuses why we should put it off until tomorrow; or next week. The more painful the goal, the easier it is to give up or quit. Today, I’ve become a firm believer in the concept of achieving my dreams living life as a process; not through exhausting objectives and goals. In other words, making my goals a part of my larger life journey—-not the only driving purpose or objective of the journey.
It certainly makes sense to always keep our eye on our goals, especially if our goals are getting to the top of the mountain. But the person who discovered the concept of using switchbacks was definitely a genius. Instead of an exhausting hike straight up the mountain, it makes more sense to walk up a gentle slope until we reach a switchback that leads us to the next gentle slope. *The genius that came up with the concept of switchbacks turned the trip to the top of a mountain into a process; a journey that was longer, but far less exhausting. If you have ever climbed out of the Grand Canyon, or hiked to the top of a mountain, you know exactly what I’m getting at. Trails that incorporate switchbacks make the journey a far more enjoyable experience.
When life is a process with switchbacks, we have time to breathe, time to watch spectacular sunsets, time to watch the waves rolling onto an ocean beach, or time to stand on the top of a mountain and take in the view. For me personally, living life as a process allows me to spend time with friends drumming at a winter solstice, or cooking burgers on a camping trip in the Cascades under a star filled sky.
When I began living life as a process, and not tenaciously and determinedly pursuing one goal after another, life became a lot more fun. I’m definitely a big fan of switchbacks. I definitely keep my eye on the top of the mountain. I’ll get there. But I much prefer taking a more gentle path; a path that allows me to enjoy the trip itself as I journey toward the view that awaits me at the top of that mountain.