I just returned from Yosemite National Park. Once a year I go on a retreat with a handful of men who are committed to helping each other be great husbands, fathers and leaders. We hike together, eat together, share life together and encourage one another. It has become one of my most cherished times of the year.
First protected in 1864, Yosemite National Park is a vast wilderness (nearly 1,200 square miles) of valleys, massive rock formations, waterfalls, and giant sequoia trees. There are over 800 miles of trails in Yosemite, so there are plenty of places to hike and every single trail leads to breathtaking views.
Much of the time, when hikers take a trail they each maintain their own pace. They start together and agree on where to meet up, then they are each free to hike their own hike. During our time in Yosemite we went on several hikes of varying distances and difficulty. We started as a group, but before long some had gone ahead, while some had stopped or slowed. Occasionally we would all regroup, but mostly we found ourselves in pairs or small sets or even alone for a time. This was natural and good for us individually and as a group.
Hike your own hike means different things to different people, but I will share some things it made me think of.
Don’t let other people tell you who you are or what you should do. This should be obvious when it comes to marketing and media and the whims of pop culture, but it is also good to be aware of how those close to you are impacting you. This is not to say I shouldn’t get good advice and council, nor is it to imply that I should not be influenced by those I care about and who care for me. However, I often find myself attempting to be what other people want me to be, or worse, I try to be what I think other people want me to be and I am wrong. “Hiking” at a pace set by someone else is not optimum for me or for the community I am in. I will be most effective to the group, and most fulfilled personally, when I am my authentic self.
Don’t tell other people who they are or what they should do. If it is good for the goose…right? I am a fixer by nature. I like to solve the problem, redesign the system, take care of things. Much of the time, my misguided efforts were a little like someone saying, “You’re hiking from A to B? That’s a long way, I can drive you there.” I would be missing the whole point. I cannot fix another person. I can listen to them, try to understand them, make myself available to hike with them if they want the company, but it is their hike, not mine. People rarely benefit from direct intervention. People benefit more from loving acceptance and a healthy example than they do from criticism or preaching.
Set your own goals instead of blindly seeking the common cultural goals. Do you really want what everyone else has? We find ourselves up against the expectations of others to pursue a certain set of goals: a great career, a certain amount of wealth, a perfect marriage, perfect kids, owning the right home, early retirement, and the like. I need to be careful that the goals I am chasing are the ones I really want and not the things others have told me I want. It makes no sense to sacrifice what you do care about to gain something you don’t. It is difficult to weed through the expectations of others and find what we care deeply about, but it is worth the effort.
Hike your own hike. Pace matters. You will be better for the group if you are willing to be who you are. We are in this together and we know where we are going. If you are ahead of me or behind me, it is ok. We will all get there when we get there.