At the beginning of a new year, we often reflect on what we accomplished last year and what we want to accomplish this year. One of my achievements in 2022 was hiking to Angels Landing in Zion National Park. It is considered one of the most challenging hikes in the United States. The trail to Angels Landing is 2.5 miles long with a total elevation gain of 1500 feet. The last half-mile is a narrow section known as the Hogsback (pictured). It features steep drop-offs on either side while ascending the last 500 feet. Chains and carved steps offer some support and security, and the reward at the top is a panoramic view of Zion Canyon and the Virgin River.

This hike certainly pushed me into new territory since I am usually content to stay on “moderate” park trails. It was physically and psychologically demanding, and I was exhilarated and proud to reach the top. But I did have moments where I was not sure I was going to make it. Angels Landing seemed too far off, or too high up, or the trail was too precarious. In those moments, I told myself that it was okay if I did not go all the way. However far I went, however much I tried, that was good enough. And I was going to be proud of myself for what I did do.

I was not an anomaly. In trail reviews I read beforehand, I saw advice like, “Be patient with your fellow hikers,” and, “Do as much as you feel comfortable with.” The most obvious reason for this advice is safety – 13 people have died from falling while hiking the trail. But on the trail, it was more than that. We passed several people that did not continue on. When I heard snippets of their conversations, I heard disappointment but also kindness and acceptance toward themselves. One woman was enjoying her peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich at the beginning of the Hogsback while waiting for her group to return from Angels Landing. She said, “I’m completely fine with exactly where I am. I made it this far, and that’s good enough for me.”

As a society, we can get caught up in our accomplishments. It makes sense since we get a sense of pride from them and/or are rewarded for them. Even my work as an executive coach is about helping people to move forward, try new things, and reach goals. But instead of (or in addition to) beginning this year with a list of what you want to achieve, what if your intentions were to:

  • Appreciate where you are in this moment
  • Give yourself credit for what you have done up until now, even if your journey is not yet complete
  • Celebrate effort as much as achievement
  • Treat yourself with grace and compassion if you are not where you thought you would be

As the new year begins, is your goal to climb to new heights? Or is this the year to accept where you are on your path?

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