The San Diego Zoo. It’s a great place for watching animals, taking photos, and . . . climbing the Hill of Death. If you’ve ever been, you know exactly which hill I mean. You think you’ve gotten to the top when you reach the polar bears? No! That’s just a pit stop. There’s more to climb.
If you stand at the base of that hill and look all the way up and think of how far you have to climb, you lose faith in your ability to get up there. You dread every step, your legs feel wobbly just halfway up, and you begin to despair and regret your decision.
The title of this blog post is inspired by my boyfriend’s words to me just a few days ago when I was telling him about my struggles finding a day job and pursuing my writing career. I felt dismayed, depressed, overwhelmed, and hopeless. I told him it felt just like standing at the zoo, staring to the very tip-top of the hill.
He looked at me and said, “Don’t get lost in the weeds.”
He was right. Because the trick to climbing the Hill of Death is not to pay attention to the climb. Look at the ground, watch your feet move, pause and appreciate the animals on the way up. Don’t think about the summit. It’s in the back of your mind—the end goal—but other than knowing that’s where you’re headed, thinking about it doesn’t have much bearing on your life right now.
For example, if I take finding a day job and look up at the mountain of work to do (searching over and over again for a good fit, sifting through hundreds of jobs that don’t fit or for which I’m not qualified, sending out dozens of applications, sitting through interviews, taking a risk, adjusting to the change), I find myself giving up before I even begin. It’s too much. It’s great I know my end goal, but focusing on the enormity of the mountain makes the journey so much steeper than it needs to be.
The trick, then, is to focus on the step you are taking now, and, perhaps, the step directly after that. Your goal is to look down at all the flowers around your feet, revel in your own movement, listen to the birdsong, smell the scent of dew-covered grass, and feel the breeze tousle your hair.
For myself, that means job searching a few minutes a day, reassuring myself that every “dead end” is one more step closer to “perfect fit.” It means taking the time to appreciate this stage of myself and take pride in what I’m doing to move forward, rather than comparing this single step to an entire mountain hike. Eventually, the single steps become the hike—it’s not something you have to think about.
What Do You Think?: Did anything in this post resonate with you? Do you fall into the same patterns of looking up at the summit instead of down at the path? What has helped you move forward and enjoy the climb?
Further Resources: Here are some links to my articles about techniques you can use to help you focus on this moment in your journey rather than despairing as your eyes climb to the summit: Grounding, Journaling, Mindfulness, and Excercise.