Setting sights on the bigger picture to avoid bailing on the destination
“Remember that nearly all extraordinary accomplishments began by overcoming a series of challenges that discourage and tempt us to quit, before we succeed. Those that maintain faith, stay committed, follow through and keep moving forward are the few that achieve everything they want in life. Be one of the few.”
— Hal Elrod
A new mountain biking season has recently started and, with it, ample new opportunities to push my limits have sprung up like the innumerable weeds and wildflowers that line the trails of a nearby national park.
This year, things are a bit different. The road that slices its way through a this park has been obliterated by the early spring floods, prompting the local municipality to close it at both ends.
On the one hand: no one, beyond the exception a straggling soul or two, had been anywhere on any one of the trails, allowing nature to reclaim everything. Bears and deer and snakes are happily crossing the road that once acted as a part-time fence, birds and frogs sing their symphonies freely and without heed.
On the other hand: well, the above stated pro can also be seen as a con when encountering a black bear or upon getting tangled in webs upon webs of spiders that seek to also reclaim these unkept trails.
And that’s exactly where I had recently found myself — biking through streams of flooded and overgrown pathways that had now become more obscured by fallen branches and fervent ferns.
Having to pedal an extra hour to make up for the lack of access by car, I had questioned my decision-making as I came to a bit of a clearing, eager to let the sun dry off my damp and dark experience biking through the soggy and saturated forest behind me.
As the pursuing deerflies and mosquitoes caught up within moments, I came upon a rare consideration — do I turn back and let go of chasing my destination? Do I give up and cut my losses now?
It’s a question we all slam into every now again — whether writing a book, starting a business, maintaining a relationship, what have you. We reach the conflict phase, the turbulence, the asteroid belt of motivation whereby we redline our efforts and stop to reconsider whether it’s all still worthwhile.
As humans, we’re very calculated. We’ve evolved to monitor our energy output and know when to cut the cord on a fruitless endeavor. However, it may be worth asking: how do we know when we’ve cut the cord too soon?
In my mud-covered and insect-ridden opinion, it has nothing to do with timing. Rather, it has everything to do with purpose.
“True happiness… is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.”
— Helen Keller
In this case, I had a few of them at play. I wanted to prove to myself that I had been in better shape than last year; that I had what it took to mentally and physically endure this particular hardship and that, above all, I really, whole-heartedly and unwaveringly, had wanted to crash through that glassy lake water that awaited me at the end of this never-ending trail.
Purpose — that’s what it seems to be about. Do we scrap the pages of a book we’ve written because it’s a waste of time? Do we push harder than we’ve ever pushed to set that new standard for physical achievement? Well, we may, but then we’d be missing out on the bigger picture. And that’s where we may or may not become mistaken in bailing on a project or ambition.
For it may be that the larger scheme at play is more important — to commit and push towards the resolution of a commitment, to prove something to ourselves that we initially set out to prove but eventually lost hold of the larger scheme.
If I had the ability to zoom out of where I had been on the trail, and see the sparkling waters of the lake laying just a few more kilometers away, I’d have no doubt about making it there. But, as our perspective works, we tend to focus on our immediate circumstances in such instances. And so the thickets and foliage that obscured my vision of the water sought to get the better of me.
Despite my discouragement, I kept pedaling, holding on to the bigger picture. Over trees that had fallen and ought to have been cut away to clear the trail; through more cobwebs that ought to have been cleared by scores of trekkers before me; amidst the hordes of insects that had no other victims to pest in this temporarily abandoned natural park.
After struggling but managing to keep my feet dry, I came upon a part of the trail whereby I had no choice but to wade through water in my shoes anyway. Covered in deerfly and mosquito bites (that I’m still scratching as I write this), with spiders dangling off my face and handlebars, I finally began to see the lake poking through the thickets of pine ahead of me.
Another half hour of wandering through waist-deep ferns and along swampy shores, I finally made it to a dry plateau where I could get a smokey fire going to finally and surely dispel the brave mosquitoes that had already become discouraged by the strong winds that rode the waves of the lake.
Having made it here, the bigger picture emerged and could be seen. In my mental rearview, the soggy trails stood defeated and the cobwebs hung broken. My sense of self-accomplishment resonated as I felt non-nonsensically victorious atop the boulder that hung over the little lake, watching pines sway under the sun.
And as I dove head first into the reprieving water of the lake, only one thought swelled in my mind: It had been worth it, and it’s always worth it, so long as there’s a purpose, and so long as we keep sight of the destination.