My wife, Cathy, and I recently had the wonderful blessing of spending a week in scenic Montana as the guest of our friends, Tim and Trish Bartz. We are simply in awe of the beauty of this state and I personally love the 80 MPH interstate. On our second day, Tim took us to a big game reserve called Bear Tooth. The plan was to take a long hike and enjoy the wildlife and beautiful mountain peaks. But we also learned a great life lesson that day.
To my dismay, as we pulled up in a valley in the back of the reserve, all around us were steep peaks and they all seemed to go upward on a very steep incline. This was looking more like a hard climb than the fun hike I signed up for. As Tim jumped out of the truck, Cathy and I took a sheepish glance at each other. Where are we going to hike? We are familiar and enjoy difficult rising altitude hikes but there certainly wasn’t a trail in sight. We were totally out of our comfort zone.
All around us the pure white powder of the year’s first snow covered everything and continued to rain down on us as we began our climb. The snow made it easy to spot the six mule deer making their way down one of the slopes. Tim then began to explain how we were going to climb the nearest peak by traversing back and forth sideways as we took on the incline. He wanted us to experience the scenic view from the peak as well as see the other side. And I thought—can’t we just drive around and see the other side?
As we crisscrossed the snowy rocky terrain, (did I mention Tim is in great shape—walks like 10 miles a day), Cathy and I stopped to pose for a quick selfie or two in the snow. Honestly, we did enjoy capturing the memories but I was more excited to stop and catch my breath. We stopped again about a quarter of the way up.
Based on our expended efforts to this point, we could not see ourselves making it to the peak. So we began to pick spots on the slope ahead where we would make our next stop. We purposely enjoyed the views at each stop as well as taking more pictures. It’s been a long time since I was this excited to take so many pictures. As Tim led us higher and higher, we began to do more rock climbing especially the last 200 feet or so. As we made it to the peak, we took in the feeling of accomplishment and let it suspend in the air like a hot air balloon. The scenic view was literally amazing and we took nice slow breaths to make the memory last. From this high point, we could see even more mountain peaks. The climb was so worth it and we were glad we had pushed ourselves ABOVE our comfort zones.
But now, how do we get down? This turned out to be a pleasant surprise as Tim actually guided us down another slope that wasn’t as rocky or steep. Guess he didn’t think about coming up this way!
Not only did we make some wonderful memories and soaked up the experience of this unique wildlife reserve, but with Tim’s help, we had climbed right out of our comfort zones. We could do so much more than we thought we could. We also learned that looking at the challenge of that peak as one big climb caused us to doubt and procrastinate. However, when we mentally broke the climb into smaller climbs to certain points with celebrations of our progress at each one, we were able to start the next climb with more confidence. As we celebrated and shared these break points, before we knew it, our big goal was right there in front of us.
Aren’t these the same principal truths in our career and businesses? We need stretch goals that grow us and our firms. We need guides who help us climb out of our comfort zones. Whenever we have big goals or challenges in front of us, if we break them into smaller goals and take ACTION, our progress leads to momentum and eventually propels us to accomplishing the big goals that make a difference.
With today’s transformation of our business model—how we work and live, how we integrate our career and lives—all of this change seems like too much, too fast. It’s daunting just like that snowy peak was for us. But if we make these changes, if we attack our goals in smaller pieces, what a positive impact that will have on our world. Let’s take that next peak in stages and enjoy the scenery along the way.