Just One Step

When I originally scheduled my Camino de Santiago journey, the “plan” looked like this:

  • Walk from Sarria to Santiago (112 km / 69 miles) which is the minimum walk to be considered an official Camino pilgrim (110 km or more and finish in Santiago). (5 days)
  • Walk from Santiago to Finisterra (96 km / 59 miles) and then from Finisterra to Muxia, both on the Atlantic Ocean (32 km / 20 miles). (4 days)

When I realized that my plan only called for me to walk 148 miles in 9 days (16.5 miles / day), I decided to start my journey in the village of Villafranca del Berzio, approximately 73 km / 45 miles further up the Camino from Sarria. That put my total journey at approximately 195 miles over nine days (22 miles per day). I thought, “I’ve got this – I can do 22 miles a day.”

The night before I began my trek (in Villafranca) I was blessed to have dinner with my good friend Mark LeBlanc, who was walking his third full Camino (500 miles). We had a lovely dinner and discussion, and when Mark asked me why I picked Villafranca del Berzio to start, I said “because I wanted to add more miles.” When he asked me how many days I planned to take to hike from Villafranca to Santiago (originally planned for five days), I said “five days” (the same amount of time originally planned), now requiring hiking 121 miles in five days (24 miles per day). When Mark questioned this aggressive schedule, I said “I’ve got this.” You’ve probably already figured out one thing – I didn’t have it.

I did make the full journey, but it took me six days to make it from Villafranca del Berzio to Santiago (20 miles a day), and at a cost – one shin splint, five blisters and a painful (as yet undetermined) issue in both feet for most of the journey. Due to a couple of wrong turns and getting lost, in total I ended up walking 199 miles over ten days (19.9 miles per day). In many ways, the Camino rose up to smack me down and to turn a physical journey into an emotional, mental and even more spiritual journey. It was painful, and it was enlightening. It was challenging, and it was life accessing (allowing me to tap into different parts of myself than I had experienced before). It was more than I imagined, and it gave me more than I ever imagined, including four key lessons I want to share with you.

Four Camino Lessons

  1. Keep Your Eye OFF the Goal – Yes, set your goals (big and bold), but once they’re set take your eye off the goal. When you focus on the goal (not the progress and small steps), it’s easy to get discouraged and to continually see only how much further you have to go. If the goal is clear, you don’t have to keep looking at it! Instead, set and focus on small goals and milestones to remind you that you’re making progress towards your larger goals. When you’re focused on the small and short term steps, every day and moment can be a success as you feel the pride and energy of moving towards your goals. 
  2. Keep Going … It’s Just One Step – No matter how challenging or difficult the journey is, everything – EVERYTHING – always comes down to just one step: the next step. When you’re walking a long distance and especially when you’re in pain (aka challenges and setbacks), the only way to continue and move forward is just one step at a time. You take one step, then another, then another, then another, and all of a sudden you have what we all need to achieve our goals – momentum and positive inertia towards your long term goals. It’s always just one step!
  3. The Why is the Way – You don’t always have to know the how of getting where you want to go, but you do need to have clarity around the why for your journey. When you hesitate, have doubts, want to quit, face challenges or setbacks, or aren’t sure how to get where you want to go (or how you can keep going at all), your why will be the inspiration for you to take that just one step. I never considered not continuing my Camino journey because I had a clear why, and that why was all I needed, even when I didn’t know how I could do it.
  4. Be Present, Always – I felt that I was a very present person before my Camino journey, but on the Camino I experienced a whole other level of being present and in the moment. I focused only on just one step and what was right in front of me (including my short term goals). When I got out of the present moment and started to think about how far I had to go and how I would get there (the future moments), I was discouraged and hesitant. However, when I was in the present moment – enjoying and experiencing what was in front of me and present to just one step – I was experiencing levels of peace and groundedness I had never experienced before (despite the pain I was feeling). The key here is that transformation – change – happens when you are present in the moment, not from achieving long term goals.

I will share more about these lessons over the coming weeks, but I leave you today with these four foundations for transforming everything in your life. Everything. If you can keep your eyes off the goal, keep moving just one step at a time, connect with your why, and be present for yourself, for others and in every situation, you WILL achieve the desired change in your path and in your outcomes. These are the heart of the lessons from my Camino journey!

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