One recent weekend, my husband Nelson and I loaded our yellow and black Labrador Retrievers into the back of our Subaru and headed out to hike a new-to-us trail near our house in Pisgah Forest. It had been awhile since we’d done a hearty hike and we all desperately needed it (dogs included)!
After picking out a loop hike that we hoped wouldn’t be overly crowded, we strapped on our hiking boots, leashed up the dogs, and stepped out onto the trail. As we moved away from the road, it got quieter and quieter. We crossed a stream and it immediately got cooler. The smells and sounds of the forest overwhelmed my senses.
At a lower trail junction, we headed right and began to climb. Right off the bat, I could tell this 3.7-mile loop was going to kick my ass. As we progressed, more than half of it was uphill and in places was pretty steep. Switchbacks between rhododendron thickets, small stream crossings that were wet and slippery, plus a few sets of stairs really challenged me.
At one point early on in the hike after stopping several times to let me catch up, Nelson asked if I wanted him to wait for me. I didn’t. Although I was grateful he asked, I knew myself well enough to know I’d feel pressure trying to keep up with him. It’s just better for me to hike on my own while still knowing he’d be there at the end for me.
Nelson and the dogs went ahead while I persevered one step at a time, supported and empowered by my trusty hiking poles. Hiking with poles has changed how far and fast I can hike. The support and confidence I feel is pretty remarkable. That being said, at one point on a long uphill climb I had my head down, huffing and puffing, wondering why I was doing this to myself. “If I turn around now,” I thought, “it’s all downhill from here back to the car.” I felt tired and alone – and a bit vulnerable.
That’s when I almost stepped on it. On the trail right in front of me was a little snail – heading UPHILL. I stood there and pondered this little creature, so small and determined. Doing her little snail thing, slowly but deliberately.
I carefully maneuvered around her on the narrow trail and smiled a huge smile. I saw the lesson in the moment: if this small snail can be heading up hill on this trail, carrying everything she has on her back, surely I, with nothing more than a small backpack and a flask of water, can continue uphill, too.
A bit later I passed a black snake sunning on the side of the trail. She (or he) didn’t really react as I jumped back with a small squeal. We watched each other for a while before I continued my upward climb. I arrived at the top, still huffing and puffing, to find Nelson and the dogs resting at the trail junction.
Overall, we had a great day. I’m happy I kept leaning on those hiking poles, going up that mountain one step at a time. I’m happy I didn’t quit. As often happens, my hike delivered to me an unexpected lesson in life and business. See, as a business coach, I often find most business owners aren’t quitters. They are willing to huff and puff and stick it out on those long climbs. They are willing to keep going when the going is hard. They may think about quitting, but instead they decide to persist.
Interestingly, those same business owners may not realize right away they need their own version of hiking poles sometimes, too. The truth is that no business owner is an island. We all need support. And the sooner we ask for and accept it, the sooner we can get comfortable with it and benefit from it.
The most common areas where I see business owners (even high-achieving ones) needing support are:
- During times of low or stagnant business growth
- In the whirlwind of so many priorities and needs
- Feeling unduly burdened or confused by a flood of ideas and opportunities
- During the chaos of working too much IN the businesses instead of ON the businesses
- Feeling frozen by perfectionism
- Struggling with disorganization
- Not knowing what to do next
- Feeling alone (there’s that island thing again)
- Stewing in unproductive habits
- Not understanding the best and highest use of their time
- Feeling overly responsible for everything, all the time
There’s a two-part solution to any of these issues:
- Asking for help
- Being willing to receive it
Just like I relied on those hiking poles and just like I accepted encouragement from that little snail, business owners can look to life, their networks, and their friends and family for unexpected insights and guidance.
If you’re feeling unmotivated, stuck, or even overwhelmed, sometimes the answer is to change what you’re doing. Call a friend. Hire a coach. Reach out to a mentor. Even lacing up your hiking boots and getting outside can change your perspective in unexpected ways! Even more interesting, as you make a habit to ask for help, the more comfortable you become receiving it.
So, strap on those boots and get hiking. Moving your body will always result in a shift in your perspective. Get a mentor or coach who can challenge you – supportive people make a world of difference in your business and your life.
And remember: be alert to those small but significant every day experiences. They are tools of enlightenment, winks from the Divine even. And they are available to you anywhere, anytime – as long as you pay attention. After all, an everyday experience with a little snail turned me into the little engine that could.
Business and life can feel hard sometimes. But at the end of the day, those hard things are worth persevering through.
This story is an excerpt from Angie’s third and newest book Ponder This – How Everyday Experiences Deliver Unexpected Insights in Business and Life. It’s available in paperback and Kindle format at Amazon.com.