Conversations at the Crossroads.

Making Molehills of Mountains

Many times in our lives we face challenges that seem insurmountable. The more time we spend thinking about the complexities of those challenges and how to overcome them, the more complicated and unachievable they start to feel. At a point they become larger than life. And we find ourselves overwhelmed, struggling to gain momentum, or paralyzed from making any move at all.

Does this situation sound familiar? We’ve all been there. We are each in a constant state of growth and evolution, subconsciously accepting and conquering challenges every day. Yet, at the times when we consciously want to make changes, we often look down and see our feet firmly planted in mud.

When challenges become larger than life and we feel stuck, one approach to getting unstuck is to focus on the first few steps of the journey we’re trying to make. Concentrating on a portion of the path instead of the end destination, feelings of overwhelm and paralysis frequently subside and, in the absence of those feelings, energy is freed up to get started.

Imagine your goal were to hike to the summit of the mountain. As you strap on your backpack, you reflect on how excited you are about this journey and how beautiful the view at the top will be. You believe that you’ve prepared well for it, and that it’s within your ability to reach the top.

Stepping onto the start of the trail, though, you look up and take in a view of the whole mountain. You note the height of the peak and your distance from the base, and you observe how the trail disappears from sight further out. Suddenly, you are thinking about how incredibly long and taxing the journey will be. You question if you’re really as prepared as you should be. You think about how much energy you’ll have to expend and how tired you’ll be at the end, skeptical that the view will even be worth it. The voice of self-doubt grows louder with each passing minute, and you wonder if you can do this after all.

The view of the whole mountain caused you to forget, in an instant, what you’ve set out to do and why it would be meaningful to accomplish this journey. It’s enough to make you sit down on the bench in the parking lot and consider getting back in the car to drive home.

But what if you were to focus only on the first part of the trail, the initial segment you had intended to walk this morning? It’s a reasonable distance, after which you could take a rest and eat a snack. How much easier is it to begin when you think of your journey as this immediate part of the trail instead of the whole mountain? Once you’ve started, what opportunities might open up along the way that could positively impact the next part of the journey? How might you expect to feel at the end of this short excursion, and how might your time at the rest stop rejuvenate or re-inspire you? What is the likelihood that the initial achievement will empower you to keep going?

In the same way that trekking up a mountain seems more feasible when we view the journey as a series of shorter hikes, major goals in our lives may seem more attainable when we break them down into smaller goals, building in time for recovery, reflection and insight at each milestone. I invite you to consider a challenge you are facing right now and how you might take this approach to move forward, free up your energy, and build momentum.

With support and encouragement for your journey,

Founder, The Crossroads Coach

Published November 5, 2012