Just Keep Going

(from my soon-to-be-published book, Just One Step: The Journey to Your Unstoppable You)

You already know about the various painful physical challenges that I faced throughout the Camino. While these challenges were very real, they also opened the door to a number of rich experiences and deep learnings. One of the biggest came near the very end of my travels in Spain as I was waiting for my flight back home from Madrid. I’d completed my Camino journey, made my way back to Madrid, and had gotten a wonderful night’s sleep in a comfortable hotel bed. Although I was rested, my feet were still hurting terribly, and I went outside on a beautiful early June afternoon to get some sunshine and to journal about my experiences. That day I experienced a powerful lesson from a man I never met nor exchanged a word with.

I was wearing flip-flops, and I found some cool, soft grass where I could sit down in the sun. I was enjoying a celebratory cigar, capturing my thoughts and feelings in my journal, and simply enjoying being off my feet. Even when I was sitting, both feet were still hurting, and this wish popped into my head: “I so wish my feet weren’t hurting so badly.” As I uttered this wish, I looked up and saw a man making his way down the sidewalk in front of me to the bus stop. That’s when I “met” my teacher. He was the only person on the sidewalk at that moment, and he stood out because he was walking on crutches because he was missing his left leg.

When I looked up and saw him, this thought went through my mind: “I’ll bet he would love to have a left leg that was in pain.” Here I was complaining about the pain in my feet and legs, and this man was living with no leg. In that moment, I looked up and said “Thank you.” Thank you for the wake-up call. Thank you for the lesson. Thank you for the perspective. Thank you for the reminder. My feet were still hurting, but instead of focusing on the pain and what I wished was gone, I shifted to gratitude to have my feet, to have been able to take and complete my journey, and to be sitting in the grass in Madrid enjoying the sunshine. It’s yet another example of the many ways that the Camino worked in and through me during my journey.

That man was meant to be my teacher that sunny afternoon in Madrid, and I’m grateful for the lesson and for the awareness. I brought that perspective and awareness back with me from the Camino, and I offer it now to you. Do with it as you please, but my hope is that you’ll keep this powerful lesson in mind – a gift from a stranger walking through my life – as you read and experience this book.

Where are you doing something similar in your life? Where are you focusing on what you don’t have or what’s not working, while failing to see the blessings that exist in the midst of it all? Are you so focused on your own issues, challenges and perhaps even pain that you’re failing to see and support those around you who are facing their own issues and pain? I was gifted with a jolt of awareness by a man who never knew me or even saw me, but that’s the way that gifts work if you’re open to see them.

Whether I was hot and tired, or wet and exhausted, or feeling the pain in my feet and ankles, these all take on new meaning when you’re taking a journey that involves nothing but walking across northern Spain. While I somehow had it in my head that the Camino was relatively flat, it turned out that there were more elevation changes than I’d expected. Although there weren’t too many big elevation changes and climbs (other than on my first day), there were ample ups and downs on the Camino. This included what can appear to be very large hills to ascend and descend, as well as long stretches of path or road ahead of you. While you often can’t see what’s ahead of you, there are places on the Camino where you can see quite some distance down the road, and those distances are exaggerated when you’re tired and hurting. It was these very hills and distances that taught me a very critical lesson that transcends the Camino into my life – a lesson that will also help you not only to navigate life differently, but to achieve more with less stress and disappointment. Interested in that?

This unexpected lesson can best be summarized in these few contrarian words of wisdom – keep your eyes OFF the goal. I know, I know – you’ve likely been told your entire life that it’s vital to always keep your eyes ON the goal. I was told and thought the same thing, but the Camino taught me a different lesson – a lesson that’s transforming my outcomes and, most important, my experience towards those outcomes. It’s a lesson about where you focus – and where you don’t. It’s a lesson about inspiring you to go forward rather than discouraging you due to a lack of progress. It’s a lesson about the vital importance of setting yourself up for success with bite-sized short-term goals, even if it’s just walking a few feet down the road. And, it’s a lesson about one of the most important needs on any pursuit or journey – momentum. Join me as we take this vital journey into a new way of living and leading towards your goals and objectives based upon one simple truth – just keep going.

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