What’s the hardest part of any adventure? To me, the answer is clear: it’s that moment where you turn a wish into a goal and start to plan. Many adventures, big and small, never get off the ground… and often for a reason that we don’t like to talk about: for a lack of trying. I should know – big adventures are my jam, like the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim ALT (or, for short, “R3.alt”) route that I completed with two girlfriends of mine this past October.
The R3.alt is adventure running at its finest. It entails a double crossing of the Grand Canyon, which means 42 miles and over 10,000ft of vertical gain on rugged trails far, far off the pavement. If that wasn’t enough, here’s an added challenge: there is no bridge across the Colorado River connecting the trails of this particular route at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, so you have to swim across the mighty Colorado in order to complete the adventure; you can imagine how thankful I was for Nite Ize’s awesome RunOff Waterproof Bags which helped bombproof my essential non-waterproof gear to ensure it would stay dry while we swam across the river. Through the hours of darkness, I was grateful for my Nite Ize Headlamp. After a botched first attempt, and despite a few minor epics on the second attempt, my friends and I managed to pull off the R3.alt in 22 hours and 27 minutes and established the first women’s speed record on this backcountry route.
As you consider what the R3.alt requires, you might argue that the hardest part of this adventure should be running 42 miles, or swimming across the Colorado River. But here’s the kicker: running long distances is what I do, and the swim across the Colorado turned out to be less difficult than we had imagined (in large part thanks to a dry season which meant warm and slow-flowing water).
So for this adventure, as for so many others, the true crux of the R3.alt was formulating the concrete goal of making it happen: the moment where I moved my internal dialogue from a hypothetical “wow what a cool route – I wish I could try that someday!” to the concrete “I am going to attempt the R3.alt.” That simple change in words is often all it takes to turn a wish into a goal, and to start making a plan for how to accomplish said goal.
If it’s that simple, what keeps us from bridging the gap between ‘wishing’ and ‘planning’? Let me go back to my Grand Canyon R3.alt adventure for a moment. When I first heard about the R3.alt route in 2018, it immediately captured my attention – as a wild “someday” idea, not as a goal. I didn’t know if I’d be able to get to the trailhead, or if I’d have the chops to jump into the mighty Colorado and swim across it; my internal dialogue was all about reasons why I wouldn’t ever be able to do the R3.alt, rather than about ways I could attempt the route.
The reason for that is part an old habit of negative self-talk, and part mental laziness. I firmly believe that most of us, myself included, use the phrase “I wish” far more frequently than we should. That’s why I differentiate between three different categories of “I wish” statements; hear me out.
1. Figure of speech without true intent: “I wish I could stay to chat but I gotta go.”
2. An honest wish related to something that we cannot influence: “I wish I was taller” or “I wish you felt better.”
3. Deliberate distancing from a desirable outcome: “I wish I could quit my job” or “I wish I was a better writer” or “I wish I could go travel.”
I personally spend most of my time in categories one and three, but I constantly try to remind myself that the first category serves no purpose outside of social interactions. The third category, on the other hand, is exactly what it sounds like: it is a way for us to deliberately distance ourselves from a challenging goal that we think we want but that is scary, difficult and/or time-intensive to pursue. That third category is the category that I like to invest in, and where I put work into converting my ‘I-wish-I-could’ wild dreams into ‘I-want-to-and-I-am-going-to-figure-out-how’ game plans.
That’s the reason that my friends Lexi, Christin and I were able to pull off the R3.alt in the Grand Canyon this past October: not because we are the strongest athletes, but because we turned a wish into a goal and made a plan for how to get there. My wish for you in 2021 is that you may do the same in the areas of your life that matter to you.