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By Jill Hope


(Note: This is Part 2 in  series of posts about the lessons I learned from some 20-something mountain men about life).

In my post last week, I talked about my incredible family trip to Colorado this summer  – a trip that became a spiritual journey in many ways.  I thought I was going to just let loose and have fun (which I did), but it was so much more than that.

Through our experiences, I learned some life lessons from none other than the 20-something mountain guys who facilitated our activities.

I shared the first lesson last week: Don’t overthink the thing you want, Just commit to it and do it. 

This week, I want to share with you the universal wisdom I learned on our white water rafting trip. Hint: It has to do with boulders.

As my husband was planning our trip to Colorado, he and my son were talking about white water rafting. Now, please understand that on my top 10 “last thing I ever want to do on vacation” list, white water rafting would be pretty near the top.

Mountain biking in COMy idea of a vacation adventure is having to move rooms in a luxurious (albeit haunted) hotel (that is a story for another time).  White water rafting? Thanks, but I’m trying to quit.

When they decided they really wanted to do this, I was concerned that the sheer anticipation of this adventure would ruin any other more mundane (aka enjoyable) activities we would experience during our week away.

Nevertheless, they were set on doing this, and I could not let them go alone (although a solo spa day was sounding more appealing as the fated day approached).

One of the guides debriefed us before our death-wish experience, telling us we’d be going in boats of 4 rather than 8. This was because of the low water levels and the fact that more people in the boat would weigh it down.

He proceeded to tell us that our experience on the river would be more technical. Okay, technical I can handle. I was feeling better already. It sounded like I would have some control with the help of my trusty raft-mates, some of whom I hoped would be muscle-bound.

Then reality struck, and I realized that it would just be us 3 and a guide in our raft.

Here’s the thing, the 3 of us are not the brawniest of folks. In fact, we’re a bunch of light weights. That said, my son is very big for his age, but he’s still just 11 and complains having to carry groceries 20 ft to the house. So when I say we don’t have a lot of muscle behind us, we really don’t.

Needless to say, I was hoping for the hunkiest, most experienced, brawniest guide they have. There is no way us 3 lightweights were going to keep this boat going where it needed to go.

Finally we were assigned our guide. I’m not one to judge a book by its cover, but does Cheech and Chong ring any bells? Despite my initial thoughts, our guide was a sweet, Midwestern boy with a mullet and a love for the mountains.

He went on to tell us “My shoulder is injured, so you three are going to have to do most of the work.”

Say WHAT???? Is this some kind of joke? Having an injured hippie as a guide did not bode well for my dreams of survival.

Look at us, hippie rafting guide. We aren’t keeping any raft on track in the white waters of the Arkansas river. Just sayin’.

As he gave us a rundown of the river, the challenges we’d face, (there are going to be some big boulders to avoid) and the possible outcomes (we will probably flip), I felt really nervous.

Plus, he told us he might need to yell at us if our rowing is not up to par (oh, that sounds like vacation fun times).

He continued: “There will be times when we need to get through a narrow passage to avoid flipping on a boulder. Do you know what happens if you see a boulder and stare at it? You go straight for it.”

He proceeded to tell us that when we are approaching a narrow passage and there is a boulder present, to “focus on where we want to go, NOT on the boulder.”

And here is where I did a 180 on this trip. I realized the great truth in our guide’s statement that ripples through all areas of life. Hmmm….perhaps I underestimated our mulleted guide.

How often do we stay focused on the boulders (problems, obstacles, challenges) in our lives, rather than focusing on where we want to go (our dreams, ideals, intended results)?

As our wise guide said “If you focus on the boulders, you’re going to hit them.”

Yes, when we focus on the problem side of our challenges, that is where we stay. But when we can shift our focus back to where we WANT to go, guess what? We greatly increase our chances of ending up there.

In the end, we never flipped. I realized we have a little more brawn than I thought we had (our guide never had to yell at us), and he ended up being one of the best guides of the group.

Would I want to go on another white water rafting trip anytime soon? Not so much.

But, did my experience reinforce my knowing that focusing on the boulders in our life increases the likelihood that the boulder will flip or crush us? And that staying focused on the goal or intended result will increase the likelihood of experiencing that result?

Yes and yes.

Think about the current boulders in your life. Are you spending a lot of energy figuring out how to move the boulder, how to avoid the boulder, how to talk the boulder out of being a boulder, etc. when instead you could focus on where you want to end up, despite how many boulders pop up along your path?

How could you shift your perspective to create a better result than you’re currently experiencing?

We’re always going to have boulders in our lives. Its how much energy and attention you give to them that makes all the difference in what you experience.

I’d love for you to share with me how this resonated with you by commenting here!