How To Meet a Big Goal


On the summit of Jay Peak, a day away from the Canadian border

On the summit of Jay Peak, a day away from the Canadian border

Following a “footpath in the wilderness” from Massachusetts to Canada has helped me learn how to meet a Big Goal.

I’ve just returned from Hiking the Long Trail – the 275 mile recreational footpath that follows the spine of the Green Mountains the length of Vermont.

The trip was an unqualified success and, blisters aside, a great deal of fun. In addition to meeting all ten goals I set for myself beforehand, I also learned important lessons about writing. In particular, I learned how simple and easy it is to meet a Big Goal by setting and meeting daily, smaller, achievable and measurable ones.

While we set out to hike the length of Vermont, we did so by hiking between six and sixteen miles every day, for twenty-five days.

Over the chin of Mount Mansfield - Vermont's highest peak

Over the chin of Mount Mansfield – Vermont’s highest peak

The terrain varied. What remained fairly constant was not the distance we covered, but the number of hours on the trail. Every day, we woke, breakfasted, broke camp and returned to the trail. Only after we reached our nightly goal did we take time to wash, write, and read – except on the days we just collapsed.

Substitute hours at the desk for hours on the trail, and the analogy to writing a book becomes clear.

Wake, breakfast, write.

Everything else that has to be done will fall into place. For me, this means work on the novel first, then everything else. I’m not likely to miss writing a scheduled post, or fail to prepare for a lecture or class. But I won’t schedule or work on these tasks until I’ve put in two to three hours on the book first.

My goal is to finish this section by the end of the year.

So far, so good: my first week back was a complete success, and I’m determined to carry over the determination I had on the trail to life at my desk. Indeed, I learned so much about how to live from this long-distance hike, that I’ve started a new category on my Wednesday blog, Lessons From the Long Trail.

The trick now is to learn how to apply those lessons learned on the trail to life sitting still.

In the fire tower on Stratton Mountain.

In the fire tower on Stratton Mountain.

Novelist, essayist and educator Deborah Lee Luskin lives in southern Vermont.

34 thoughts on “How To Meet a Big Goal

  1. So impressed that you accomplished your hiking goal, Deborah. And love that you can apply the lessons learned to the writing process. Of course! 🙂

  2. Hope the blisters heal fast 🙂 Seriously though, when you manage to do something that requires effort consistently over a period of time, you develop a habit of being disciplined and regular, and it spills out on the rest of your life. I got the same results years ago after my first month of daily meditating. Then again after the first couple of weeks of daily swims etc. So… we look forward to your book!

    • Thanks for these very kind words. And I’m discovering the very lessons you have learned. Hiking comes easier to me than sitting meditation, though I’m having some success with that this year, too. Thanks again.

  3. Thank you and congratulations. What an interesting look at writing and the big goals. The biggest writing goal in my life is my current novel particularly when many folk are awaiting its conclusion. I value the big lessons of your achievement on the hiking trail. Inspiration is fantastic! (Meditation works well for me but daily walking is a MUST). Cheers!

    • Thank you, Faye! I’m glad you found the post inspirational. For me, walking IS meditation. Since the hike, though, my knees have been screaming at me, so I have to settle for PT exercises and light strolls. Getting better – and working hard. Good luck with finishing your current novel!

  4. Such an inspiring post! Whenever I take long strolls I also reflect on life and my goals, and chances are I’ll make some new realizations. And I also agree that a single huge goal can be broken down into small tasks. This way, everything is manageable and measurable. Thanks for sharing this!

    • It is a beautiful trail – and quite doable. (I know a 2100+ mile thru-hike of the AT is not for me.) And seeing Vermont from the Trail also gave me a new perspective on where I live. It was great! Thanks for commenting.

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