In my last post, I shared about a hugely humbling hike that I inadvertently ended up on during my first-ever solo backcountry trip in June 2019. In the post (if you haven’t read it, click here), I shared the secret ingredient I unintentionally found for dealing with negative thinking.  

Considering the immense challenges faced by teams of people who come together to create, sell, or produce products and services, it seems appropriate to share the real gift to getting the best out of difficult situations. 

If you have ever found yourself in a prolonged irritating situation, and wanted to just be done with it, you will likely appreciate the second gift that this humbling hike gave me.  

Getting The Best Out of Difficult Situations

Not even half-way into the hike (a 14-miler known as the “roller coaster” on the Appalachian Trail), I was angry and just wanted to be done.

While repeating positive messages to myself was helping, just pushing harder each time I made a mistake was not. Trying to make up for lost time (from going off trail twice, and vastly underestimating the challenge of this hike), I pushed harder, carelessly bouncing from one rock to another, until I slipped and slammed my knee into a rock, forcing me to take another break. 

The Best Ingredient For Dealing With Stressful Situations

On the verge of tears, I reached into my pocket and pulled out the only thing that’s guaranteed to make just about any woman feel better; Chocolate! 

Ten minutes later, with a belly full of chocolate, I was back at it, pushing to get to the shelter by the time I had set as my goal. 

Beyond exhausted, as well as hurt and frustrated, I worked hard to maneuver between many giant boulders. Here, take a break, the rocks would say, as they pulled at me, insisting I rest along this increasingly challenging fourteen mile hike, that had now become a fifteen mile hike. 

More chocolate, please. 

Difficult Storms Are Like Difficult Personalities

With just two and a half miles (roughly) to go, I heard thunder and looked up to see yet another storm moving in. This one brought dark gray clouds, driving more fears that I would have to set up camp in the dark rain. 

Wanting desperately to avoid this storm, I started praying.

God, please hold off on the rain. Let me get set up, eat dinner, and get into my hammock, before you open the skies again. 

Sick of the rain, and ready to be done, I tried imagining myself as a superhero with the strength and courage to finish with a thunderous applause. In reality, I probably looked more like a snail, crawling along. 

God please, I prayed again, just let me get to the shelter before it gets too dark.

The dark made me even more uncomfortable than the rain, thunder, or lightning. So I fixed my eyes on the trail and soldiered on as I prayed.

When The Difficulty Just Doesn’t Let Up

That’s when I heard a voice that seemed to be inches from my head, speaking directly to me. Strangely, this didn’t concern me. Instead, it comforted me in a way that words simply cannot express adequately.  

Here’s what I heard, clear as day—

It’s not about the destination, Misti. It’s about the journey. Can you smell the rain? Can you hear the thunder? Can you feel the rain dripping off your arms?

In that moment, I got it. Before that moment, I had been pushing, trying, and forcing myself, miserably, trying to get there

The Trap Of “As Soon As”

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I would soon be saying, as soon as I get set up, I’ll be happy. As soon as I heat up my dinner, I’ll celebrate. As soon as I finish this challenge, I’ll enjoy it. As soon as… then… 

We are often trying to get to all the “there’s.” What’s interesting, of course, is that every “there” comes with a “next.” Focusing on “next” and getting to the next “there”, quickly removes our ability to truly arrive and be present for the moments we’re in.  

Using Your Senses To Release Resistance 

Ever find yourself in a perpetual loop of striving, fighting, and wanting to just get through whatever you’re in, unwilling to slow down and experience all of it? 

Feeling the rain drip down my arms, breathing deeper, fully experiencing the scent that only rain creates, while listening intently to the crack of each thunder, time stood still. The more I focused on all my senses, the less I noticed my pain. Fear evaporated in the presence of… being present. I knew right then that the real secret to living life fully is accepting all of it, as it is, not only as I wish it to be. 

As I finished my hike that day, and throughout my days and weeks to come, I thought about how often I had allowed fear and hurry to rob me of the smells, tastes, sounds, and feelings that make up life. Forcing and pushing to get what I thought I wanted or needed left me as exhausted on the Appalachian Trail as in my day-to-day life. 

Use Your Senses To Spend More Time Enjoying Life In The Midst Of Difficulty

While I would love to tell you that I now spend all of my time fully immersed in the experience, not wishing for anything to be different, I would be lying. Instead, I am spending more time accepting each experience as it unfolds, seeking to discover the beauty in each moment.

At this time in my life, I’m learning to trust in the dark clouds, rain, and thunder. I imagine a day that I’ll be able to dance within the various textures, colors, and smells that are a part of the experience of being human.

Where are you resisting reality (avoiding a difficult conversation, perhaps) right now? What are the dark and thunderous experiences you’re avoiding, wishing they would just be over? Are you giving yourself the time to fully experience them? Or are you rushing through them, wanting to get to your next there?

Gather Your Lessons By Slowing Down And Leaning In

Rush too quickly, and you just might miss out on the lessons inherent in the experience.

Are you getting through your days, rather than getting from them, as Jim Rohn famously encouraged us to do? Are you ready to open up, ask different questions, and allow the situations to transform you and your team?

Until you face the challenge by staying present in the moment, the situation is likely to continue prohibiting your ability to appreciate the journey.

Celebrating progress over perfection, and appreciating the zillion destinations that comprise this journey we call living life, is really the point, at least as I see it now. By opening to the challenges of the moment, you allow the experiences to transform your perspective.  That new perspective shines a brilliant light on the solutions you have been missing along the way.

Here’s to your greatness,

Misti Burmeister

Misti Burmeister has been helping leaders have difficult conversations for more than 15 years, increasing engagement and productivity across generations. Help your team reach its highest potential at https://MistiBurmeister.com