Recently I was on a hike. It was a well-traveled path with many hikers coming and going as individuals and with their family. The hike was not extreme by no means. On a scale of 1 to 10 it was a 2. As I walked the trail, I found my focus drifting in and out of the conversations taking place by those passing.

I frequently heard statements and conversations that included:

  • Stay on the path
  • Watch your step
  • Don’t go down there
  • Don’t run
  • Stay off the tree
  • Don’t touch that
  • Be careful
  • Hold the rail
  • That’s poisonous

As I looked around, I also noticed a number of signs:

  • Do not enter
  • No stopping
  • No standing
  • No eating
  • Dogs not allowed
  • Warning strenuous trail
  • Danger of falling
  • Mountain lion warning
  • No hunting

It occurred to me that the intent from caregivers and the trail signs were fully intended to keep everyone safe. It also left me pondering the paradox we live within. While we are encouraged to get outside and connect with nature we are also encouraged to stay on the path and follow the rules.

When I sit with individuals and couples, I frequently see the stress, disconnect, and the overwhelming experiences daily routines impose on them. Both flexibility and discovery become lost.

I often suggest to my clients, as a short term antidote, to break out of the routine, step away from the city or go beyond their community and connect with a new experience, new place, or just get back to nature. Go fishing. Take the family camping. Go for a drive. Get lost!

The suggestion follows a simple mantra of “different place = different pace.” The objective is to break out of the routine, the rules, and the “rinse and repeat” cycle we become accustomed to.

For families the intent is to allow caregivers and children time to feel free and experience the world around us without so many rules. Let our natural instincts have room to wander, explore, experience, and develop. Give our mind, body, and spirit an opportunity to flourish.

Many times, I sit with individuals and couples who struggle to trust themselves. They are not sure they can “do it” or they are afraid to “try something new” because the routine feels safe and comfortable. All the while they are expressing frustration and a lack of satisfaction in their life. They settle, compromise, and decide to stay on the path.

Learning to trust ourselves, to be flexible, navigate the course of life with confidence, and develop the ability to listen to yourself and know when to stay on the path and when to pivot off the path and explore beyond is an important set of skills to develop.

Next time you get outdoors or step away from the normal routine, as an individual or with family, be safe but also remember that going off the beaten path may just lead you to experience something new, something wonderful, something inspiring.

Now, go take a hike!

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