A few weeks ago, Caleb, Andrew, and I took a day off to go on a hike. We wanted it to be a challenging, epic hike. After some research, we decided to hike up Mt. Pilchuk to the lookout tower.
A warning to those who attempt this hike – the drive in to the trailhead is by dirt road full of enormous pot holes. If I were to do it again, I would not do it in my Subaru Impreza. I would do it in a humvee or a hovercraft if I had the means… The underside of my Impreza is very likely horribly bruised and dented because of this little adventure.
Mt. Pilchuk lookout hike is one of those rare hikes where you can see the end from very early on in the hike. Here is a picture from the beginning of the hike.
The lookout is at the very, very, tippy peak of this mountain ahead of us. It’s hard to explain how it feels when you see a mountain like this before you. Actually, it’s not that hard to explain – it’s very discouraging. It is like my morale got punched in the face. There is a little part of me that asks, “Do I really want to do this?”
But luckily, there is another side of me that whispers, “Just keep walking.”
Understanding that it’s going to be a long journey, that’s what we do. We keep walking. We make little goals. We keep moving forward. There’s a great book I read recently called, “Atomic Habits” by James Clear. It reminds me of a passage that says that people do not become an Olympic Athlete because they set a goal to become one. Otherwise, we’d have millions of Olympic Athletes. The ones that actually become Olympic Athletes are the ones who train every day in a very disciplined fashion. Get a little bit better every day. They do this because once they start “doing” and creating daily habits, it eventually becomes a part of their identity. I am someone who runs every day. I am someone who does not drink. I am someone who saves money.
In this case, it’s fine to look at the top of Mt. Pilchuk and have a goal to get there, but if we’re _REALLY_ going to get there, we just need to keep on moving. And perhaps, every 30 minutes or an hour, we’ll stop and take a break and pat ourselves on the back at the progress that we’ve made – sometimes surprised at how much closer we are to the top than we were.
Most worthwhile things are like this. If we focus too much on the end goal, we can get discouraged. I think it’s ok to look up now then and take a status check for where we’re at. But, it’s the daily habits that will accumulate over weeks, months, and years. On our drive home, Caleb, Andrew, and I talked about this quite a bit. This is what it was like for piano, tennis, programming – almost anything and everything where we had to start small. Don’t get discouraged that you can’t do everything perfectly at the beginning. Start small and do a little bit every day. Let it become a part of you.
As a Bishop in an LDS congregation, this comes up sometimes when people feel like they have done something so bad, that there is no return. When people feel like they are not and cannot be good enough – that God could never love them. Well – rest assured – He already loves each one of us. He sent his only Begotten Son to reveal that love He has for us. But sometimes, we can get caught up looking at the tippy top of the mountain.
Now and then, I look up and get discouraged that I’m not perfect enough… often times because I’ve made a mistake… or said something rash… or treated someone poorly – sometimes even my own family members. But, it’s times like this, that I can remember how far I’ve come from where I’ve been – and tighten up my boots, and strive to do better each day. I can have a little more patience than the day before…. be a little more forgiving… make a more concerted effort to reconcile with those I might have offended….
When I feel the discouragement, I am reminded that Christ’s atonement is infinite, and we may sometimes underestimate his power to redeem. Our job is not to focus on why we are not perfect… but to get our hiking boots on and start walking upward. Do it every day. What are the little things that makes us more Christ like. Don’t focus on becoming perfect. Focus on taking a small step in becoming more good. Better than we were. And let us internalize it as who we are becoming. And just as bad habits can accumulate over months, years, and decades – so can the good. And we can become the best version of ourselves that God intended us to be.