This past August, my family and I took a vacation up to Lincoln, New Hampshire. My older brother, Michael, who is an avid hiker and outdoorsman, intentionally picked the area because of its surrounding impressive Appalachian forest and the famous White Mountain National Park. He was so excited about the trip that he researched biking and hiking trails and kayaking rentals to have a fun and eventful week. At first, Michael selected two beginner hikes suited for my parent’s capabilities, the first being a mile and a half hike on Artist Bluff mountain, which was a well-deserved name for its views at the top. We were able to see outstanding sights of the Franconia Notch State Park and Echo Lake. The other trail, called Flume Gorge, is a mile long famous tourist attraction for its scenic views of waterfalls, rustic bridges, the Mount Liberty mountain, and Conway granite that rises 70 to 80 feet high. The experiences were breathtaking; however, towards the end of the vacation, my brother felt that I needed to see views from a higher peak to get an official experience.
It was around eight in the morning the day before we left for home, and I was sitting at the kitchen table in our timeshare at the InnSeasons Pollard Brook, sipping a freshly brewed cup of coffee. No one else was awake besides Michael, who was sitting across from me at the table eating his homemade banana pancakes and intently focusing on his phone. He glanced up from his phone and broke the early morning silence in the room.
“Let’s hike Mount Lafayette today.”
I furrowed my eyebrows. Michael glanced back at his phone. “I want to do it because reviews say it has ladders as part of the trail and a lot of scrambling.”
“How long is it?”
“It’s five miles up, and another five back down. If you want, we can traverse an extra mile east to cross Mount Lincoln and then Little Haystack, which will have a shorter way back down and we’ll be able to see two more summits.”
I set my coffee down on the table. Initially, the trip sounded far out of my comfort zone, especially hearing about it from an experienced mountain man. Michael had traveled far and wide to conquer the eight-mile Mount Olympus in Utah, Mount Si in Washington State (also hiking up six additional mountains within his week stay), and Grindelwald in Interlaken, Switzerland. Meanwhile, the longest hike I’d done was a two and a half-mile hike round trip up Mount Tammany in the Kittatinny Mountains of New Jersey. Then again, finishing a challenging quest that I’d never done before and the thought of exceeding my own expectations of my capabilities sounded thrilling.
“Count me in.”
Three hours later, I could almost see the first summit that was immersed in mist from a distance. The trees around us trickled off, displaying an opening to a trail lead by kerns and rocks. My knees were about to collapse. Rain droplets were bouncing off my raincoat and onto the now slippery stones. I glanced at my watch. “We have a half mile left!” I hollered to Michael, who was several strides in front of me, effortlessly leaping from rock to rock. Meanwhile, I was trying to keep up without falling, trying to catch my breath from my racing heart, so…. what if we took a brea-… no. Are you kidding me? I hiked up four and a half miles straight for what? I was uncomfortable, so I pushed the last half mile even harder than before.
And I did it.
You know the saying Travis from Hannah Montana The Movie says: “Life’s a climb, but the view is great”? I could not relate to his saying more at that moment. When I stepped foot on the peak of Mount Lafayette, I had my hands on my knees, gasping for breath. I had sweat dripping off my face, and my feet swelled from the three hours of hiking. But I looked all around me to see a view that was so worthwhile. There was not a single cloud in the sky, and I could see several peaks in the distance framing the entire northeast of New Hampshire and Vermont on all sides of me. My jaw dropped at how the white oak trees glistened from the reflection of the bright sun. I felt so relieved that I could now just take a deep breath and embrace what was around me. And the thought came into my head – I did it. I conquered a challenging mountain, and the reward was an unforgettable journey and view.
What I learned from this experience is that no desired goal will come easily because the journey to the destination is a mental game. There has to be an investment of time and energy, although most people burn out midway from the finish line because they do not have the right foundation before conquering their quest. If I did not have the right mindset, I would have believed my excuses for exhaustion, painful feet, and temporary rain were valid enough to stop climbing up the mountain. Maintaining an optimistic mentality is easier said than done for most people in uncomfortable situations. It initially took me months to improve my mindset because change requires reversing mental habits first. I am thankful that having experience as a student-athlete taught me healthy thinking at an early age in order to maintain high-quality performance in both sports and school.
Here are some tips that helped me build my foundation over the years that will hopefully benefit you in your career, lifestyle, or relationships:
Every morning, I write down in my planner at least five short term goals that I want to accomplish for the day that will benefit me in terms of long term goals. For each goal I write down, I am careful with my wording. If you keep telling yourself “you would like to” or “will” do something, that is telling your brain that there is a possibility in the future, so you subconsciously will not act on your goals, and you quickly push off deadlines. If you write down “I am” going to do something for thirty days, your brain will subconsciously begin believing that you are doing what you tell yourself, and you will be consistently on top of your work.
If lists aren’t your forte, create a dream board and hang it on your wall. Dream boards are self-created and can contain images, wording, and art of your desires, goals, and life long aspirations. The purpose of creating one is because the more you read and look at something you are visually attracted to, the more you are motivated to become what you put on the poster. I hang it up in my dorm so that I wake up and see it before I leave for class every morning. That way, I am motivated to start my day on a good note.
We are all capable of more than we already know in ourselves. That is why it is important, especially returning to campus, that despite all of the unfortunate situations going on with the world, it can be difficult to persevere in our personal and work aspirations. Thus, I hope these pointers will help you like they helped me keep my promise to climb up the mountain.