A friend went for a short hike last fall and found himself lost in a national forest. He planned on two hours, but all together hiked about seven. He was by himself; it was a little bit scary as time passed and no path was found.
Aaah, but it was an adventure with a happy ending. Let me show you how valuable this hike turned out to be. You don’t have to become lost yourself.
My friend started by checking out the trail the afternoon before. He walked to a look-out point, scanned the mountain ranges and found the forest quite inviting. It was a refreshing change from tourist activities in town. The next morning he put a few things in a backpack and left. It was beautiful and warm, and he enjoyed the forest sounds and scenery as the trail became narrower. He pushed aside branches and kept going, then turned to go back and found the path was no longer clear at all. He had been following one of many deer trails. Uh oh.
For the next couple hours, he kept looking for a man-made trail to follow, but had to give that up. I asked if he had water with him. He did. He had two water bottles, an apple and sandwich in his pack. He also had a compass and jacket. I was surprised; most people don’t take a compass and jacket for a short trail hike on a warm summer day. He said he usually has stuff for a contingency plan.
My friend had not thought about his habit of preparing for the unexpected, but suddenly recognized he always uses contingency planning in his business, too. He can take risks and make mistakes because he has a back-up plan. What habits do you have that give you freedom to make mistakes?
Eventually, he hiked to a high enough point to see his position in relation to the terrain. He didn’t see a road, river, or electrical lines, but he saw a valley and figured he would walk along it until something changed. I asked if he was worried by this time. He said when unsettling thoughts came to mind he quickly banished them and focused on what to do next. In fact, that was his primary survival skill.
Being prepared for becoming lost let him focus on finding his way out. This same habit lets him keep his focus when outside forces throw chaos into other parts of his life. What skills do you have to keep your focus when you feel lost?
He followed the valley, eventually coming to a paved road. He walked about thirty minutes when a car approached and the driver asked if he needed a ride. “You look like you’ve been out here longer than you meant,” the driver said. My friend appreciated a lift to his car, which was over three more miles away.
My friend said, “Even though I knew I could finish on my own, I was glad to accept help from a stranger.” Back at the hotel, he found himself tired but pleased. He had prepared, focused, and persevered until he found his way out.
He even could have finished walking to his car, but was grateful for the driver making his last three miles a lot easier. That’s a good metaphor for professional life coaching. Sometimes we want to reach our goals a little quicker and easier than we can going it alone. So, if you are ready for a lift, give me a call.