I’m a big fan of the outdoors, as I believe breathing in its fresh air and witnessing its beauty has its own sort of healing powers. It’s good for the soul. Recently, I’ve been thinking about how our life paths can be compared to following a hiking trail in the great outdoors. Let me paint the picture.
You jump in the car with your friends, significant other, family, dog, or whomever you are going on the day’s hiking adventure with and put on your favorite music to groove to during the ride. You reach your destination, park your car, turn off the tunes, get out, and put your hiking boots on. You are ready to go! Oh, and don’t forget your water bottle and snacks. You’ve got to keep yourself hydrated and nourished in order to have the energy to continue on and get to where you want to go. You’re standing at the trailhead listening to nature’s silence, feeling excited, strong, maybe nervous, and ready. You know that challenges lay ahead but you're prepared for whatever may present itself.
You are taking the trail step by step, just like you take life day by day. It’s all you can do, just make the most of each step (or day) as to not discourage or create too many expectations about what is ahead. There’s a crossroads 20 feet down the trail and there are three trails to choose from. One looks like it's the most popular trail as its clearly defined and boot prints are visible in the earth’s dirt, the other’s a little grassier, hinting it hasn’t been walked on as much, and the last is extremely overgrown, but you can still see the faint path of a hiking trail. Which one do you choose?
Immediately, you think of Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken, where he writes, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — / I took the one less traveled by / And that has made all the difference,” and keeping that quote in mind then, of course, you would choose the overgrown trail. Who knows what’s to be discovered that others haven’t! A waterfall, beautiful mountain peak, or lookout? Sounds exciting. It will be much more of a challenge and struggle cutting through this path, where you will have to learn everything for yourself. You can do it, but it is a lot harder.
One thing I’ve learned in my life is that it is okay to take the trail that others have gone down before me. You can learn from them and their experiences—their successes and failures. Take the path more traveled by and still make it your own, but use others’ experiences as a stepping stone to reach your own kind of success. The choice is ultimately yours, just know that you don’t always have to go a different way than those before you to reach success.
Follow your gut, because it never lies. You choose whichever trail is calling to you. Again, take the trail step by step, day by day. It starts to get steeper and steeper and you trip and fall. It’s okay. Get back up and take a sip of water, maybe even a little rest and snack break. In life, when you fall down or make a mistake, forgive yourself, be strong, and move on. Reflect on why you fell down or made a mistake and learn from it. Grow from it. Like Kelly Clarkson always said, “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” It’s true.
Finally, you reach the end of the trail and find yourself on a mountain’s peak, overlooking nature’s beauty. You can see everything: the path you chose to take, your shoe prints in the dirt, the small road you drove on to get to the trailhead, the town you live in, and for miles and miles to the horizon line. You learned about yourself and from others before you all the way to the top. You’ve reached your goal with the help of those before you whether you know it or not. Know it’s okay to ask for help and accept help. You don’t have to make the same mistakes as those before you. Simply learn the lessons others have already learned the hard way to skip over some struggle. It’s not cheating, promise!
You can reach success any way. It just helps to have people in your life to help guide you and whom you can learn from. You don’t have to do it alone.