Over the Fourth of July weekend my backpacking buddy and I ticked off a very short section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), hiking for 4 days along the southern Sierra section of the 2650 mile trail that stretches from the Mexican to the Canadian border. It’s an incredibly impressive and beautiful trail that in recent years has inspired record numbers of people to spend several months traversing the Pacific Crest. If you watched the movie or read the book Wild, you will be familiar with this famous trail and the transformational experiences that can occur when you commit to hike with just what’s on your back for months at a time.
On our first day out, I was walking along the trail, contemplating and reflecting on all the changes that have occurred in my life over the past two years (if you are a new follower, you can learn about my journey in earlier articles) when I came across an amazing site right alongside the trail that stopped me in my tracks! Right there in the soft sand that comprises much of the Sierra soil were the letters HYOH spelled out with sticks and a rock!
There is a trail philosophy that has become a quite well-established principle for those “thru-hiking” the massive distance of the PCT. It’s known as HYOH, or Hike Your Own Hike. It means that the only way to successfully survive and hopefully thrive on a thru-hike is to hike in the way that works for your body, your goals and, most importantly, your happiness. To traverse an incredibly rugged trail over several months, enduring heat, cold, rain, snow, wind, altitude, bugs, blisters, stream crossings, snow fields, high mountain passes, long stretches without water, gear failures, food intolerance, unexpected illness and injury, pain and fatigue from long days, and the mental and physical challenges of walking up to 30 miles every day can’t be done if you’re suffering trying to match someone else’s idea of how to succeed in making the trek.
The principle of HYOH struck me deeply in a more profound way than just thru-hiking during our short 4-day jaunt along 44 miles of the PCT. I instantly knew that the message carefully laid beside the trail was Nature reminding me that I needed to Hike My Own Hike, not just in the wilderness, but in my entire life!
So much of the last 20 years of my life has been about just this process. I have been unraveling the conditioning and programming from the earlier years of my life about what I “should” be doing and how I “should” be behaving and Hike My Own Hike—live my own life.
In coaching we have a saying that it is always disadvantageous to “should” on yourself. From my own experience and from the experiences of every one of my clients, we “should” on ourselves much more than we are consciously aware. When we “should” on ourselves, we are not hiking our own hike—not living our own life. We are living someone else’s life that we have internalized to ensure that we are safe, acceptable and, most importantly, lovable.
What I have learned over the last 20 years of deep personal work is that until we release the conditioning, we are not hiking our own hike. We are not living our own life. We are living out of some internalized notion of how we “should” be living.
When we live out of our shoulds—out of who we believe we need to be versus who we are meant to be—we never experience the joy, fulfillment, love, ease and success that we are meant to have in our lives. We live diminished lives, settling for safety, acceptance and someone else’s idea of a successful life.
Hiking Your Own Hike means living your own life—the life you are meant to live in the way you are meant to live it. Not anyone else’s notion of how to live your life. We each have a unique song to sing in the concert of life on planet Earth. When we live someone else’s life—the life we believe we should live versus the life we are meant to live—we rob Life and ourselves of the unique song we are meant to sing and the immense joy and fulfillment that comes from singing our unique verse.
Spending those 4 days on the Pacific Crest Trail, contemplating the wisdom of Hiking My Own Hike, I rededicated myself to living my own life and continuing to look for where I am responding and behaving because I feel I “should” instead of choosing to live my deepest, authentic truth.
I challenge you to look into your own life and identify the places where you are “shoulding” on yourself, and commit to Hike Your Own Hike.
If this article speaks to you and you are ready to Hike Your Own Hike, I invite you to reach out and schedule a time to speak with me. It is “my own hike” to help others live the life they were meant to live, and it would be my honor to hear your story and support you in living the life that you were meant to live! Here is a link to my calendar to schedule a time to talk.