Lessons from the Mountain

When my husband and daughter started biking Maple Canyon, I thought it would be great if I could bike it too. But being thoroughly un-athletic, and much more inclined to eat chocolate than to exercise, I figured that doing something like biking Maple Canyon was wa-a-a-y out of my league.

Then I thought to myself, “Wait a minute. Why do you assume you can’t do things that are hard for you? Maybe you really could do it!”

So I set myself a goal to be able to bike Maple Canyon by the end of the summer.

Being a little embarrassed about the whole thing, I didn’t tell anyone. Instead, I set off quietly the next morning, early, by myself, to see what I could do.

Well, I made it about one third of the way up the first big hill, before I had to give up. “You’re pathetic,” I thought to myself, and returned to my first assessment – “I could never do something like that.”

Then I thought, “Wait a minute.” I decided I wasn’t ready to give up yet – at least not all the way. I decided that maybe trying to bike Maple Canyon was too big of a goal for me. But just because I couldn’t do the whole thing, didn’t mean I couldn’t do something.

So I changed my goal. I decided that my new goal would simply be to go a little farther each day – – even if all I could do was push the bike’s wheel around only one more time after I reached the spot I had gotten to the day before.

Lesson from the mountain: Sometimes you have to revise your goals. But even when you can’t do everything, you can do something.

I got up and set out again the next day (again, early in the morning, quietly, not telling anyone, because now I was even more embarrassed than I’d been at first). When I got to that first big hill, I looked at it and thought, “There is no way you can do this.”

But then I reminded myself that all I had to do was go a little farther than I had the day before. I picked out a tree as a landmark and I told myself that I would just try to go as far as that tree.

I thought I was going to die. But I did make it to the tree.

Lesson: Sometimes, when it’s too hard to think of the whole big thing, you have to pick out a little thing as a landmark and just make it that far.

Every day I set out on my quest, to go just a little farther than I had the day before.

I learned that most of the time, I couldn’t bike in a high gear, and I couldn’t bike straight up the mountain. Instead, I had to shift down to the lowest gear and traverse (ride back and forth in a zig-zag pattern across the road, so it wasn’t as steep and I could rest a little in between). I learned that when I was sure I would have to quit, I could actually keep going farther than I thought if I would ride this way.

Lesson: Sometimes you can’t go at things head-on, full-force. Sometimes you have to slow down, gear down, and maybe even go a little sideways.

One day, I made it up the first big hill. I could hardly believe it, but there I was at the top. It was a little flatter after the hill, and I felt good. I realized that the big hill at the beginning was the hardest part. Once I got past that, I could ride a whole bunch further.

Lesson: Sometimes the hardest part is at the beginning. And you can’t always judge yourself by how far you can go, because sometimes the hills are steeper than other times.

Every day I kept at my goal, to go just a little further than the day before. Sometimes I really could go only a tiny bit further than the day before. Other times I could go a lot further, especially if there was a flatter stretch where the hills weren’t as steep.

Then one day, almost unexpectedly, I realized that I was near the top of the canyon. I figured I was so close, I might as well ride the rest of the way.

So I did.

I rode the rest of the way in first gear, traversing slowly back and forth across the road. It wasn’t fast, and it wasn’t pretty, but then I saw the campground gate and realized: “I did it.”

Guess how long it took me, from when I first started out?

About a month.

It only took about a month of slow, steady effort to do something that I thought was impossible at first.

Lesson: We can do hard things. And sometimes, they’re not even as hard as we thought.

So much begins in our head and in our hearts. If we can avoid putting ourselves down and becoming discouraged, then the battle is half-won.

Everyone has a different hard thing to do. But we can do all that is needful. We can bike our mountains, whatever they may be.

Comments are closed.