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My family has an annual tradition of creating a Christmas card that encapsulates the events of that year. Whenever we travel or do something unusual or meaningful, a photo will go into the “Christmas Card” file. In November, I cull through the photos and choose the best ones. This is usually a painless process…until this year.

We spent Spring Break at Big Bend National Park. For those of you not from Texas, Big Bend is 800,000 acres of untouched beauty, located along the “big bend”of the Rio Grande River. It has three distinct climates – desert, mountains and the river itself.

One day, we decided to hike up to Emory Peak, the tallest mountain in the Park (7,825 feet). The trail is 5.5 miles each way and includes an elevation change of approximately 2,500 feet. The description was “strenuous” but that word seems mild to what we discovered at the end of the hike.

The trail just ended. The only way to the summit was to scramble up 30 feet…with no safety gear, no ropes and a 1,000 foot drop to catch anyone who slipped. “Strenuous” does not even begin to describe the terror I felt at the prospect of falling.

While I debated how to graciously decline going further (my feet were tired), my daughter called out from above. “Come on, Mom. This would make an awesome Christmas picture!”

That did it. The thought of our photo being taken on top of this peak was enough to get me motivated to at least try climbing. I thought that I would see how far I could go, one step and tug at a time. Instead of thinking about the possibility of a mistake, I kept the Christmas card image in my mind.

The amazing thing is that — it worked! I did summit Emory Peak and I lived to tell this tale. And I learned a valuable lesson in goal setting and motivation.

Instead of looking at the negative, keep a vision of your goal always in front of you. Instead of focusing on the possibilities of misfortune, allow your vision to pull you forward. Give your vision such energy and power that any obstacles (or boulders) you encounter on your journey become stepping-stones toward your goal.

That night, as I was remembering how I felt after I stood on the summit, I realized that the only thing that would have held me back was my own mind. Fear created by my thoughts almost stopped me; but now when I look at our summit photo, I know that I was stronger than my fear.

I can’t wait to create our Christmas card this year. I might even include this blog to tell the story of why I was grinning from ear to ear on top of a bunch of rocks!



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