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The Dirty, Beautiful Secret About Setting Goals

This past weekend my wife and I had the opportunity to be in Colorado for a dental school reunion. On Saturday, we decided to take a day-trip up to the mountains for a hike. The hike started at Echo Lake, near the base of the beautiful Mt. Evans. The trail would follow a river up the mountain to another lake.

Echo Lake goals

The hike was difficult but a lot of fun. We crossed the river a few times on wooden planks and stumbled through some thick trees but eventually we made it to the lake. It was absolutely beautiful and definitely worth the hike.

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But guess what? We noticed that the trail continued up the mountain further. We had plenty of water and a little more energy so we decided to keep going and see where it led.

Mountain Goals

The trail got steeper from there and sometimes it was hard to find. It even got a little muddy as the runoff from the winter snow was trickling down the slope. But we stuck with it because every quarter mile the trees would open up and we’d get an amazing view of the mountains around us. Eventually, the trail led us to another lake that was even more beautiful than the first. The reflection of the mountains on the water was amazing.

We were about to stop and eat lunch, having reached our destination, when my wife noticed a waterfall on one end of the lake. We could see that the trail we were on continued up the mountain to what must be the source of the waterfall. Having seen it, we knew we had to try and make it.

Difficult goalsThe next mile of hiking was some of the toughest I’ve ever done. We had to trek through dark, sticky, mud and then hop on logs and boulders across rivers. The last half mile was really steep and we had to hike through the snow, which we we definitely were unprepared for. The altitude was starting to affect us as the air got thin and our muscles ached.

Eventually we made it to the top and found one of the most beautiful sights I have ever had the privilege to behold. At the top there was yet another lake, with amazingly blue water,Reach goals the snow-capped mountains reflected on it’s surface. To one side was the spot where that water tumbled off the cliff down to the lake we had left earlier. From up there we could look down and see the trail we had followed, winding up the side of the mountain from the valley below. It was breath-taking. (And I never use that term.)

I learned a lesson about setting goals that day. Almost like a dirty little secret about setting goals. The secret is this:

You will never reach the end of your goals.

I didn’t say that you won’t reach your goals. But you will never reach the end of your goals. Here’s why:

You set a goal and you work towards it and then when you get there, you can see a little farther. And so you set new goals and get to work on those. And then when you reach those, you can see a little farther and you go through the process again. And as you go, the view gets more and more beautiful. You can look back at where you started, you can look around and see all that you have accomplished, and you can look forward to the next goal and the wonders it will bring.

I’ve said it many times in previous posts, this life is all about constant forward progress. That is the true nature of setting goals. We don’t set goals to say, “I will go that far and then I am done trying.” We set goals to help us climb that next mountain. And then when we see the view from that mountain, we want to go even higher, so we set another goal. All humans have an innate desire to want to go higher. We were never meant to reach a plateau and stay there. When we stop setting goals and moving forward, depression, apathy, and indifference creep in. IMG_4332

So continue working towards your goals. Even if the trail takes you through muddy paths and snow. It is worth it! Your goal doesn’t have to be to conquer the entire mountain today. Set your goals to get to the next “lake”. And when you reach it, that trail will call to you to try and get to the next lake. Gradually, goal by goal, you will reach the summit and the beautiful view that it holds. Keep hiking the trail!


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  1. Dearest Chris,
    As my current goal is to get me employed again and have developed plans, and schedules and an array of different tools, this message, your message could not have been more on point. I need me a cheerleader to keep me moving along and I “seem” to be alone on this journey; however until I can be my own cheerleader, I thank the power that runs the Universe for humans like you, who share what they learn along the way with people like me who still struggle daily with “the way”

    In deep Gratitude

    • Sounds great. What type of employment are you looking for? I know when I hire people it is 25% ability and 75% attitude. So now that you have all the preparations, make sure you show up with a positive attitude, it will open doors that no amount of schooling can. Best of luck!

  2. Wonderful post and beautiful pictures. That is the thing about journeys, we really never know where they are going to take us because we can not see the next step until we get there. And if we are so focused on the end we miss the enjoyment of the journey. So much unexpected joys come to us while we are exploring this thing called LIFE.

  3. hiran souza pinheiro

    LInda mensagem!

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