Think What You Could Accomplish if You Devoted Your Whole Self


A number of years ago, when my son was 13, we decided to hike Humphrey’s Peak, just north of Flagstaff, AZ. The trail is difficult. It is steep and long and extremely rocky. Above the treeline, it exposes you completely to the whims of nature.

At 12,637 feet, Humphrey’s is Arizona’s tallest mountain. The challenging hike was complicated by the fact that we were hardly experienced hikers at the time.

At the bottom of the trail, I remember noticing a number of signs warning of “False Peaks Ahead.” I gave the signs little thought as I had no idea what a “false peak” was at the time—and wasn’t ready to jump to any conclusions about it being something we could fall off of. So we continued on.

The hours-long hike got tougher and tougher as the mountain got steeper and steeper. Above the tree lines, with leg muscles burning, we just kept walking, one foot in front of the other, with our eyes on the goal.

At one point, we could see the top of the mountain. The sight was very invigorating and seemed within reach so we just kept moving. The top got closer and closer. Eventually, as we took our final steps onto the top… I learned what a “false summit” is.

Very quickly, a “false summit” is essentially an illusion of the top of the mountain. From your angle climbing, the summit above you appears to be the top. Except when you reach it and can see beyond it, you suddenly realize it’s not the actual peak of the mountain. The trail continues. There is more hiking to do, more ground to cover, and a higher elevation and accomplishment to achieve.

Over the years, I’ve come to realize my experience with false summits on that hike mirrors life in a profound way.

We all have goals—important things that we want to achieve in our lives. They may vary in specifics from person-to-person and some may be more well-defined than others, but we all hold them.

And while we may not know the specifics of what accomplishment looks like in each of those areas, we have a general sense of how good we can be and how high we climb.

But what I’ve discovered is that most of us underestimate how successful we can truly be.

Just like my son and I, while on the hiking trial, didn’t think we could possibly take another step as we reached that first false summit, once we saw that there was more to achieve, we found the drive and passion to continue—achieving more and more with every step.

We thought we knew what success looked like. But we soon realized, if we kept driving forward toward the goal, we could do more than we first thought possible. And life, in many ways, looks similar.

The problem is, unlike a dedicated hike on one Saturday in August, the journey of life is filled many days. And each of them with ups and downs, twists and turns, and countless distractions.

In fact, the distractions that keep us from achieving our greatest goals surround us constantly.

In the clutter and noise of daily life, distractions are everywhere. From the lure of material possessions, the endless scroll on our screens, the trivial time-wasters available to us, to the never-satisfying pursuit of money, power, or accolades, these distractions surround us every day. And they quite often keep us from fully focusing our energy on what truly matters.

Almost daily, they hold us back from giving our whole selves to the pursuits that bring real meaning to our lives. And when they do, they keep us from achieving our truest potential in life.

On the other hand, just think what you could accomplish if you devoted your whole self to the goals and values you hold most dear. Undistracted and undeterred, you’d climb higher and accomplish more than you’ve ever dreamt possible.

There’s an old quote that goes like this, “Most people overestimate what they can do in a day, and underestimate what they can do in a lifetime.” And I believe that to be entirely true.

You were designed to accomplish great things. Why would you waste that potential on things that don’t matter? Or, as the philosopher Seneca called them: “heedless luxury and no good activity.”

Just imagine the possibilities if we cleared away the distractions that consume our days.

What could we achieve if we directed our full attention and energy and resources towards our truest passions?

Whether it’s becoming a more engaged parent, a more creative thinker, or a more dedicated advocate for change, our greatest achievements lie in fully committing to our passions. In no longer wasting the one life that we have to live.

Mark Twain once said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” I like to add a third: “The day we throw off anything that distracts us from that purpose.”

So what goal do you need to be reminded of today? What person in your life do you want love better? What problem in the world do you want to solve? What team do you want to lead better? What faith do you want to commit yourself to more fully? What creative endeavor has been on your heart for years?

Go. Chase it. Give yourself fully to it.

Because when you do, you will achieve more than you even thought possible. You can be a better father, a better leader, a better spouse, a better advocate, a better artist, a better _______ (fill in the blank however you desire).

Today is the day. And this is your invitation. Let’s not let distractions deter us or keep us from the mountaintop.

Instead, let’s keep climbing, focusing on what’s truly important, and discover just how much we can all achieve when we devote our whole selves to it. You just might be surprised how much you can accomplish if you devoted your whole self.

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