Warning: Why Solving A Problem You Don’t Have Is Crazy

On the last weekend in December I was with my family at Mt Hotham celebrating my big brother’s 50th birthday. He chose that location because he is a keen walker, having completed the Australian Alps Walking Track 5 times in the past few years. For the uninitiated, the track is 680kms of pain walking over the mountain ranges from Walhalla in Victoria to Canberra, ACT. Definitely not my cup of tea.

Whilst we were away he took us to a place called Mt Murray, where this photo was taken. As he pointed to the left and said “Walhalla is that way, past all those mountains” then to the right and said “Canberra is that way” I was amazed that for as far as my eye could see there were mountains, yet this was just a snapshot of how far and how many mountains they would cover on foot. It would take them 7 days to arrive where we were standing, then another 15 to get back to Canberra.

I have to admit, the thought that ran through my head at the time was “you’re bloody crazy! I could never do that.” My mind then wondered about how hard it would be (let’s be honest, I was struggling just climbing the small mountain from the car park!). As I did the “Aussie Salute” waving swarms of flies away, I thought about how uncomfortable it would be. It went on and on until I was totally convinced I could never even manage a 24-hour walk, let alone a 3-week one.

Of course, this became a distant memory as I settled into my hotel room that night. But it did occur to me that spending all that time worrying about problems I didn’t have was just a little bit crazy. Which got me thinking about how often I do that. Can you relate?

Not only does it use up energy and time that could be better placed elsewhere, it is also a killer to achieving our goals. How come? Because we go out to a time in the future and attempt to solve problems with our current thinking. Which we can’t, because it’s our current thinking. Let me explain…

Before my brother goes on one of these long haul walks, he trains. In fact he remains fit all year round so he has the stamina to last the distance. The amount of preparation that goes into it is mind-boggling. From the weight of every item in the backpack, to running ‘food drops’ in the weeks leading up to the walk. He also maps out exactly how far they will travel each day, and sends a GPS signal out to let everyone know they have arrived safely.

It’s all the preparation that goes into such a trip that allows them to be ready to walk 680kms. It would be totally unrealistic to think that I could just join them at a whim without any preparation.

But it’s even more than that. To arrive at that beautiful spot on top of Mt Murray, they would have already walked for a week. They would have had the time and discipline to get into a routine. They would know what to expect, based on having walked that path before. And even for the ‘unexpected’, they are fully prepared.

So how often do we set a goal (a New Year’s Eve resolution perhaps?) that’s big, hairy and audacious? (If you answer never, then maybe it’s time to consider one that is.) And then as we start to let our minds wander, we decide that there is no way we can achieve step nine of the twelve-step plan. And of course, we are right. Without the opportunity to work through steps one to eight, we can’t possibly be ready for step nine.

So the next time you find yourself thinking about all the problems you have somewhere in the future, stop. Take a deep breath and just look at the step in front of you. It’s all about putting your boots on and getting started. When you arrive at your goal, I just know the view will be amazing.

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