First: A Story
Hubby and I set a goal to hike to the top of Mount Timpanogos in 2023.
As far as goals go, it’s not that big of a deal. People do it all the time. And plenty of people do it without preparing for it at all. But I have something most of those people don’t have: Lyme Disease.
If you don’t know much about Lyme Disease, let me tell you why this might make a goal like this a bit more difficult.
Lyme, for me, feels like you have more gravity pulling on your body than everyone else. Ten times more, 100 times more… I don’t know, just a lot more. It feels like there is something pulling you down, like you’re going to sink right through the floor.
Getting from one minute to the next minute feels like walking through thick, heavy, sticky sludge.
You have to constantly hold yourself in this world. Because it feels like, if you let go, you will sink down and never surface again.
This level of fatigue is excruciating. It doesn’t feel like you can even get out of bed. You can; it just doesn’t feel like you can.
But I’ve never been one to take things lying down – an article for another day 😉.
So we set the goal and trained all summer. We started with a short, easy hike and upped the mileage and elevation gain each week.
And every hike, no matter the difficulty level, was one step at a time.
The way you hike a mountain, regardless of your physical condition, is one step at a time.
So that’s what I did. I focused on taking one more step. One more step. One more step.
But I didn’t fully learn this lesson until we actually hiked Timp.
Because Timp is such a long hike (16.82 miles with 5299 feet in elevation gain), we started hiking at 3:30 AM. So, we had a bit over 3 hours of hiking in the dark.
I noticed it was feeling much easier than usual.
I thought at first it must be the temperature, but I shed my jacket pretty quickly so I knew that wasn’t it.
And then I figured it out.
Usually, when we’re hiking, I can see the trail in front of me. I can often see where we’re hiking too far in the distance. I can often see a lot of trail stretched out in front of me. I can see how steep the trail is as I’m going up.
This time, I couldn’t.
My headlamp only showed one step in front of me.
I couldn’t see the top of the mountain. I couldn’t see the trail stretched before me. I couldn’t even tell how steep the trail was in that tiny patch of trail I was on.
All I could see was the next step.
And the next step was easy. It was just a step. I could take one step.
This was when I realized how much harder my brain had been making my hiking all summer long.
I had been focusing on just one more step all summer. But, without realizing it, I had also been looking ahead to everything that was coming next.
When I could only see the next step and my brain could no longer get in my way, hiking was much easier and much more enjoyable.
Free Yourself from the Shackles of Overthinking (about the future)
This story isn’t really about hiking or Lyme Disease – this is simply a visualization of what we all face regularly in our lives.
If you ever feel stressed, overwhelmed, pressured, worried, or fearful about anything that is further ahead on the timeline than the present moment, it’s time to free yourself from the shackles of overthinking.
When you think of everything you have to do, it’s like looking at the top of the mountain and seeing how far you have to go when you’re already so tired it doesn’t feel like you can take another step.
This is also true when you think of everything that could go wrong, every horrible thing that could happen, or when you try to predict the future and figure out all the details before moving forward.
This kind of future thinking keeps you in bondage, taking away your freedom in the present. And without freedom, it’s much harder to love our lives.
3 Practical Steps
- Mindfulness Meditation: Begin each day with a brief mindfulness meditation session to center yourself in the present moment.
- Set Small Goals: Break down your larger tasks into smaller, manageable steps, and focus on accomplishing one at a time. If you still feel overwhelmed, pressured, or stressed, break them down even smaller until each step feels easy all by itself.
- Limit Future Planning: Allocate a specific time each day or week for future planning, but avoid dwelling on it outside of these designated times. If you aren’t in that specific time block, stay focused on the present moment.
- Limit Future Thinking: If your brain likes to worry about the future, the same principle applies. Set aside time to “worry” about those things. Outside of that window, stay focused on the present moment and remind your brain that right here in this moment – everything is okay. Right here in this moment – you’re safe.
Questions To Consider
- How often do you find yourself thinking about, worrying about, or stressing about the future?
- What purpose does your brain think this serves? What does it protect you from?
- How does this get in the way of living in the present?
- What would it take to follow the steps above and stop overthinking about the future?
The only moment that actually exists is the present. The past and the future only exist in our minds.
And since we have the ability to control what happens in our minds, we have the ability to free ourselves from overthinking that is holding us back and keeping us stuck.
Live Free. Love Life.