Reality Check: The Next Step, and the Next

Alfredo Aliaga Burdio broke a Guinness World Record last year as the oldest man to successfully complete the rim to rim Grand Canyon hike. The hike took him 21 hours over two days. He is 92 years old.
Some of us start the new year with new hopes, dreams and goals. Others see little beyond dread, disappointment, perhaps even disgust. The choices we make about what information we seek out influences how we feel, what we think, and perhaps even what we do. In that light, here are some points about Alfredo’s story that stood out for me.
First was Alfredo’s comment that he didn’t start to live a healthy lifestyle till he was 76 years old.
Now, there are different conclusions you could draw from that, and I’m certainly not putting it here as a recommendation! But the helpful, hopeful suggestion that we could take is that it is not too late to make a positive change in our lives, regardless of age.
As we move along toward maturity, we can get in a habit of thinking, “It’s too late now.” Some activities do indeed have expiry dates. However, automatically dismissing the possibility of an appealing activity because now is not an ideal time reminds me of the well-known tree-planting advice: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.”
Weather events prevented Alfredo from going on this hike when it was originally scheduled. Sometimes we perceive events over which we have no control, such as weather, as if they are messages saying, “Stop; it’s not meant to be.” It’s easy to fall prey to discouragement when uncontrollable events interfere with our plans.
One of the hallmarks of wisdom is when we can tell the difference between, “This isn’t the right thing to do” versus “I just need to stick with the plan and keep working.” Alfredo chose to keep working.
Alfredo’s journey wasn’t guaranteed to succeed; in fact, it could have resulted in disaster. The difference between embarking on an unrealistic task versus one with a reasonable chance of success has to do with preparation and persistence. Preparation isn’t glamorous; it’s repetitive.
Alfredo trained regularly. This hike was certainly not his first, and successful completion depended on realistic preparation. Every day, he walked. Every single day.
Finally, Alfredo commented on how he thinks while he is hiking. “I think of the next step and the next, and not how far I still have to go; then it is not so overwhelming and very doable.”
His comment is in line with a guiding principle for me and for others, that is, “One foot in front of the other.” Carry on, slowly and steadily.
Alfredo also had supportive relationships. As it was a record-breaking attempt, he was hiking with family members and observers. Many folks along the way knew of his attempt. They took photos with him, encouraged him; cheered him on.
It’s good to engage with people along our way, accepting their encouragement and perhaps doing some encouraging of our own. So let’s stay in the hike for the long haul. Think of the next step. And don’t forget to celebrate when you get to the end.

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