There comes a time with most of my clients when we need to focus just on the next right step. It doesn't mean giving up on goals, it's just acknowledging that there are times when keeping our eye on the big picture is not the most helpful thing.
I got a reminder of how true that can be--and what it feels like--on my hike up to Delicate Arch earlier this month.
I've been wanting to visit Arches National Park for years, and was finally ready. I waited till school was back in session to hopefully miss the worst of the crowds and the summer heat.
It was still hot, though. But even after about a six-hour drive I was anxious to get in and see the fabled rock formations.
The "Park Avenue" trail is just inside the park entrance and caught my eye right away. Lugging my camera bag, I started down the trail and got a good distance, snapping pics along the way, before I realized how hot it was. In fact, it was the hottest part of the day, over 100 degrees, and I was hiking a trail sandwiched between two enormous sandstone fin formations, basically being baked alive.
So during those sweltering afternoon hours, it's best to head into Moab for some refreshment. I went back in closer to evening and got to the Delicate Arch trailhead, where there are warnings about the length and difficulty of the hike. Despite being wiped from the drive and the heat, since there was just enough time to get up there before sunset, I decided to go.
And the warnings aren't kidding. The hike, which is beautiful and winds you through mazes of sculpted rock, is almost all incline. And it takes a good solid hour. Plus camera equipment, of course.
There's this one stretch where you're trudging up a decent grade on a long, unbroken sandstone ramp with no cover. You're going east so in the evening the sun is on your back, and step after laborious step the wide, rising expanse before you never seems to change. The sight of the climb yet before me, huge and unmoving, somehow made the heat hotter and the exhaustion hang heavier on every limb.
But I was determined to be at the Arch for sunset. It was on this arduous leg of the journey that I remembered recently advising a client that, for now, our goal should just be to make tomorrow an improvement on today. Not solve everything, not even think much about where we eventually want to be or how much work and how long it will take--just what fraction of that process belongs to tomorrow.
Every journey is a unique blend of hurt, hope, pain, and potential. There are parts where it just doesn't help to keep the end goal hanging over your head. You're not giving up on it, you're just letting it go for the moment because your mind and heart need the break.
And it's okay because the truth is, while I looked down at my feet where the ground was moving much faster than it was on the endless slope above, I was still doing everything I could to reach my destination. I just couldn't bear to look up at it for the moment.
And I did eventually get there.
Mike Ensley is a Professional Counselor in Loveland, CO
As well as a hobbyist photographer & National Park geek