Monday, September 01, 2008

Challenge, Adversity, Victory



For those who already understand these three words and accept challenges and their associated adversity then this story will simply reinforce what you already know and live by. For those who have not thought about these 3 words and their connections I will tell you what it means to me and I hope that it will make sense so that you will consider them as you move forth in this world striving to be the best you can be at whatever it is you do.

In spring of this year, I joined a group with 5 others who signed up to do the West Coast Trail in 3days. The plan was to cover the entire 75km trail through British Columbia’s temperate rainforests on the west coast of Vancouver Island. At the time I knew that it would be a challenge but not until the day we left did I realize that I was in for more than what I expected. Last week my group and I set out for the West Coast Trail, a beautiful but rugged terrain of going up and down steep cliffs, passing through powerful river currents and trekking slowly through mud pools that would swallow half of your leg. To make all of this even tougher was that we were hiking in the rainy season and each day we were drenched from the pouring rain that hardly stopped falling upon us. Sometimes a challenge in life can become greater than anticipated and in this story the degree of readiness as well as unpredictable elements such as weather had a major influence on how hard this challenge was going to be.

On day one I started the journey with my group feeling strong and confident but by 30km I was beginning to feel the pain in my legs and blisters on my feet that would slow me down and make me question myself as to whether or not I was actually able to finish it. We lucked out with being able to find a spot to camp out that first night away from the rain. On day two, again we started strong but the sore muscles came back even sooner as the terrain became more difficult with colder temperature and the rain getting heavier. It was not long into the second day before my mind was telling me how much I hated doing this adventure and that I would never do it again. It was my group against the wilderness with the rain pouring down on us and me slipping backwards into pools of thick swampy water covering the entire backside of my body.

Usually I am good at psyching myself up to push on but in this case I was finding it mentally very difficult. Even though I never said it aloud, I truly wanted out of this muddy jungle! Ha! Out was not a choice at half way nor was stopping due to the onset of shivers that would only lead to hypothermia. Even if there was a way out I knew that giving up would be the last thing I would ever do. Though the West Coast Trail challenge brought more adversity than expected, it was something I always wanted to do. It has been written in front of me since I moved to BC 4 years ago and if I was to back out then I could not cross it off my list as one of the things I wanted to accomplish in this life. I kept hiking forward and thought to myself a quote from the book "Think And Grow Rich":
"Every adversity, every failure and every heartache brings with it the Seed of an equivalent or a greater benefit".
Day three was a bit better with only had 23km left to trek and more importantly I accepted that pain, perpetual mud and rain which was inevitable with this challenge. The last 5km of the hike felt like an eternity climbing vertical cliffs and then down the other side just to have to go up and down another once again. We inched forward and each kilometer became slower and slower with one as slow as 36min per km. We were almost done and believe it or not, the sun was actually coming out! From high above the rainforest, shafts of sunlight came through the treetops and illuminated the mist around us. The rays of the sun gave us warmth as we passed through them and the forest mist danced in the light like magic dust. For how painful the last kilometer was, it was a beautiful feeling to see the end approach and to step out of the forest and see that we had finished trekking the West Coast Trail.

We did it! We traveled a tough 75km through rain and sun, through mud and sand and through silence and song. Victory was won and though I am sure for each member of my group the feeling of victory can be described as something different, mine was one of great accomplishment along a historic trail of beauty and wonder. The West Coast Trail with its breath-taking views was harder than I ever thought it would be and despite the rain I was so happy to have experienced it and to have without quitting. The aching body and sore knee that will need to be iced did not matter against this sense of achievement that made me feel stronger, more capable and confident to take on other challenges in life. If I can do this, I can do anything. Would I do it again? Yes! Perhaps in 1 day or maybe another trek elsewhere in the world that will give me experience that strengthens my spirit. Why? Because anything is possible should you embrace challenge, adversity and believe.

This story spoke of challenge in the physical sense but know that challenge does not have to always be physical and that you can experience victory and its associated personal growth with any challenge that takes you outside of your comfort zone. Examples can be something small like signing up for Toast Masters, a group whose aim is to become better at public speaking or learning how to play an instrument. Or it can be as large as taking on a new career or quitting a harmful addiction. With all these challenges you will experience adversity – it is part of the deal so that you may get to that higher level of personal growth. Do not let any obstacle great or small stand in your way of success. The more you overcome them, the closer you will be in getting to your destination. If you let your obstacles overcome you and then turn around and quit then sadly you deserve the fate you’re in.
Just remember…

…"Every adversity, every failure and every heartache brings with it the seed of an equivalent or a greater benefit." This line has great meaning in my life and I hope for yours as well. Challenge, Adversity and Victory!

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