30 Apr

I’m excited for this next hike. Honestly, I’m not. 

That’s how I felt yesterday. 

I had decided on Friday that I would spend my Saturday hiking up to another alpine lake in the Sangre de Cristos. Another opportunity for solace and gorgeous views. But I wasn’t feeling it.

I had no other competing priorities to wrestle. It wasn’t that the weather was going to be unfavorable. Quite the opposite. The stars had aligned. The weather was going to be great for a late winter hike. Lower 50’s by noon and sunny all day. That’s a ridiculous setup. 

So, why wasn’t I excited?

I think from time to time there is a coalition of the negative – a collection of negative thoughts - that drills its way into our heads and creates a formidable resistance against what our soul would normally crave. It forms to become the enemy of adventure. The joy-sucker of the untamed spirit. The army against freedom. The warehouse of doubt and reluctance.

It’s a two hour drive to the trailhead with gas at $4 per gallon.

Can I even get to the trailhead after driving two hours? It might not be open or passable in the snow. Where would I park the Jeep?

The trail will probably be a couple feet deep in snow and without a trench for at least a few miles. This will make it far less likely that I’ll make it to the lake. 

There are some potential avalanche danger areas along the way. I will be hiking solo without any avalanche rescue gear (long pole, shovel, beacon, etc.). There’s no excuse for this kind of misjudgment, especially for an experienced hiker in Colorado.

I had a long, hard work week. It would be refreshing to have a restful Saturday.

The list kept circling in my head. The thing is, these reasons sound correct and reasonable. But I felt the battle. Something in me needs the trail. Choosing to not hike feels wrong.

Let’s just call it what it is: excuses. 

Here’s why: I have gas money. I’ll find a place to park if the trailhead is closed – it probably won’t be; it’s a common trailhead. Turn around if the snow is too deep or if it looks like there may be significant avalanche danger; just enjoy your time out in nature. Suck it up! Rest on Sunday. None of these negative coalition elements were reasons. They were excuses. 

A University of Manitoba article from psychologists Tara Thatcher and Donald Bailis suggest that making excuses is most often an indication that we are afraid of failing. Excuses allows us to distance ourselves from responsibility and culpability. Excuses protect our self image or public image. 

Is that what this is all about? Me protecting myself from failure?

The fact is, I didn’t want to drive two hours if I have only a small chance of making it to the lake. As much as I’d like to believe that I don’t care if I achieve my hiking goals, that it’s all about being in nature and that the destination doesn’t matter, I’m simply not that much of an idealist. 

Even if just a little, not meeting personal goals does bother me on some level. Even if I get to reap all the benefits of hiking, sometimes I feel that the journey is not enough. Sometimes I need the destination to matter. 

“But David,” I hear, “It’s not the destination. It’s the journey.” 

I know. I actually have a T-shirt with that quote. 

The truth is that it’s both for me. It is just as much the journey as it is the destination. And why can’t it be? Why can’t I have both? Why does one have to be sacrificed for the other?

The coalition of the negative, as bad as it can be, can actually protect me from failure. It can help protect me against obtaining only one of the two things I love about hiking. As long as it doesn’t win every time, it keeps me honest. It keeps me grounded. It keeps me chasing after my most meaningful wins, when I get to soak in the journey and celebrate the destination all in the same trip. 

I wasn’t excited about this last hike, so I didn’t go. I didn’t want half the prize. Maybe next time it will be exactly what I need. 

I say, hold on to what you want and be honest with yourself. Then, when it’s right, go get it! No excuses. 

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