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The Next Ten Steps: How to Keep Going When You Can't See the Finish Line

I’m reminiscing about the trip to Patagonia I took earlier this year where I adopted an inspirational mantra, “The Next Ten Steps”. As I trekked along the most breathtaking hiking paths in the world, I also found myself struggling with the never-ending trails and wondered how I could experience so much physical discomfort and mental weariness while surrounded by such wonderful beauty.

In an effort to enjoy the excursions that lay ahead for the week, I paused and reassessed why I felt so overwhelmed and how I could turn this feeling around. My usual upbeat demeanor had shifted into a negative mindset. I realized the recent pause I’d taken in my career after a lifetime of going from one role to another, coupled with residual stress from the pandemic, resulted in feeling stressed, fearful and doubtful about my future. It all came tumbling upon me like an avalanche.

I didn’t know what would happen in my life when I returned home to branch out in business on my own, just like I didn’t know how I was going to make it through another week of strenuous hiking. When I sat with those questions, I realized that if I would only look at the next ten steps, I could create an adventure by piecing the journey together in segments. I didn’t have to be at the summit to see my path.

On my trek, this “next ten steps” mantra allowed me to truly take in the landscape, crisp air and Earth’s color palette. And in all honesty, the destination took a backseat to the reward of a warm meal and the connection of our group.

For the next six days in Patagonia, I walked through some difficult, yet exciting and less-traveled footpaths on private untamed farmland, through prehistoric caves, around lakefronts and on rugged and windy routes with some narrow cliff hangers. My guide and I even saw a condor family on a mountain ridge and I felt lucky to be witness to such beauty. However, the most incredible experience was hiking on a glacier and taking in a view that not many get to experience in a lifetime. We had to climb a stone wall off of a boat guided by a rope to get to the landing and onto the glacier! (Talk about a confidence builder!)

Little by little, by putting one foot in front of the other, my stress and all the negative emotions faded away. I cleared the stagnant thoughts that filled my mind, making room for new ideas.

Coming home, I discovered my new resolve to see the unknown as an opportunity to explore and discover what is around the bend and up ahead as the path unfolds. In my day-to-day routine, I committed to slowing down, observing, getting curious about where I’ve been, and using that space to acknowledge where I am now, and where I want to go. Only then will my actions be informed by true insights.

Focusing on my next ten steps does not just relate to my personal journey, it also translates into the way I approach my business as a strategy consultant. Examining how an organization self-assesses and implements change is a key part of what I do and through that process, it’s become evident that progress is made in similar ways, across industries. Since it’s usually most helpful to link esoteric ideas (like taking the next ten steps) with tangible strategies, I’ve put the following lessons into actionable steps.

How to keep going when you can’t see the finish line:

1 - Become unrelenting. It’s one thing to have lofty goals, but reaching those goals requires grit, persistence, determination, courage, vulnerability and empathy. With these values at the forefront, you will reach your goals faster and still like the person you are when you get there.

2 - Bet on yourself. You cannot always see every twist and turn laid out in front of you but don’t shy away from a challenge simply because you don’t know every detail about how you’ll accomplish it.

3 - Pause to catch your breath every now and again. While unrelenting perseverance is vital for growth, so is taking time to evaluate where you are and examine your best options for moving forward. If you skip this step, you’ll likely end up nowhere, fast.

4 - Celebrate your wins at every checkpoint. Don’t wait until “someday” to be happy. Honor how far you have come both personally and as an organization and revel in the small victories. This ensures you stay in the present moment and enjoy the journey along the way.

5 - Remember your ‘why’. Knowing you want to climb a mountain to get to the summit is great, but it isn’t particularly helpful if you’re on the wrong mountain. Getting very clear about why you want to achieve a certain goal makes it easier to stick with it.

It's been a few months since Patagonia and I remain transformed - still without all the answers but with a willingness to continue showing up and working hard while letting the path reveal itself. As a bonus, taking a pause allowed me to let go of obligatory relationships that no longer benefit my journey, and rather build ones where the freedom of trust, love and integrity can flourish.

Through my meditation, my spirit is in deeper gratitude for the wonderful abundance and joy I’ve been given and shown. My path has guided me into an alignment in the new work I do to make a deeper and meaningful impact by making people’s lives easier and helping their businesses thrive.

But this is just the beginning and I look forward to my next travel journey to learn more new discoveries. Because I’ve learned that taking the next ten steps, whether around my neighborhood or to wild new places, reveals the elements I need to reach the finish line.

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