Recently, my two backpacking buddies of 40+ years and I hiked a 70-mile section of the Colorado Trail, most of which was around 10,000 feet above sea level. It was, as always, a great trip being with people I have known for
nearly all of my adult life. We have hiked over 2000 miles of trails together, mostly on the Pacific Crest Trail through California, Oregon, and Washington. We use our hiking time, uninterrupted by our typical daily living, to be together, to reflect, to talk about our lives now, and to set goals. It is a special time that makes me feel more like the authentic me than any other time.
On this trip, we met a woman who was backpacking by herself and had an interesting tattoo on her arm with a saying on it. We asked what it said. “Inhale the future. Exhale the past.” She had gone through a difficult divorce, and this was her mantra as she was dealing with it. It was so powerful for her, she had it tattooed on her arm. She is now happily remarried and backpacks with her husband or alone depending up on his schedule.
I can’t stop thinking about this statement. It resonates for me and for so many clients I have worked with. It is so important to move on from the past and to look to the future. It involves way more positive thinking than being stuck in the past.
Inhale the Future. Exhale the Past
The trail provides us the uncluttered space to ask each about our lives over the past two years since we hiked a section of the Long Trail in Vermont in 2021. We each had more than two hours to talk about our past 24 months and ask each other questions or make comments on our stories. When do you get the kind of time to do that?
More importantly, we have always found ways to look to the future. We often create 3-5 year goals on our hikes and then hold each other accountable afterwards. This year was no different except that I brought a values exercise Brene Brown shared in her book, Dare to Lead. (The exercise can be found on her website if you’d like to do it.)
Brene has identified a list of over a 100 values. The first step is to circle 10 values important to you now. It is harder than you think. I didn’t tell Rees and Howard that after they were done struggling to get their list to 10, they would have to reduce it to five. Ouch. Brene says that to be a leader and to make your best decisions, you must make sure you are focused on what is important to you at all times. (She actually wants people to reduce it to two!)
The next step is to list three things that you are doing that support each of your top five values and to identify three “slippery slopes” or things that get in the way of you living that value. Then describe one activity you have done recently that exemplifies this value in your life at its best.
We then took the next four days (yes, four days) to share our values, what has been working, what gets in the way, and an example of living this value. The exercise gets you thinking about what has worked or is working for you with this important value, but most importantly what gets in the way.
Inhale the Future. Exhale the Past
The things getting in the way are the most thought-provoking as they led each of us to think about what we could change in the future to embrace this value more. For example: one of my five values is “family” and I recognized that my wife loves to veg out at night watching TV, and I don’t. So this means we don’t get as much time together as I’d like. I thought about one of my “successes” last year with this value when we binged watched Ted Lasso together. So this year, when I came home, I signed up for a month of Hulu so we could watch Murders in the Building together.
It is a small way for me to exhale the past (me not watching much TV) and to inhale the future (identifying a TV show we could watch together).
Many of you know that I like to take regular “tech-free retreats” inspired by Richard Leider. I am drafting this blog right now on my September retreat. On these retreats, I take time to think, write, read, walk, and meditate. I listened to one of my favorite guided meditations from davidji, “Taking Your Life to the Next Level.” One line is about moving from the past, like lifting your back leg when walking, lifting it up and moving it forward to get anywhere (that is my interpretation). This resonated with me today as I Inhale the Future. Exhale the Past.
We cannot change the past.
The question is, how do I want to move forward in the most authentic way?
How are you moving forward in your life?
Are you embracing and living the values most important to you?
Jim Peacock is the Principal at Peak-Careers Consulting and writes a weekly email for career practitioners. Peak-Careers offers discussion-based online seminars for career practitioners focused on meeting continuing education needs for CCSP, GCDF and BCC certified professionals as well as workshops for career practitioners and individual career coaching.
He is the author of A Field Guide for Career Practitioners: Helping Your Clients Create Their Next Move and The Adventure of Finding Me in New Zealand. He is also the recipient of the 2020 Kenneth C. Hoyt Award from the National Career Development Association and the Mid-Atlantic Career Counseling Association’s Professional Contribution’s Award in 2020.
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