I was recently on a lovely tranquil hike in Lake Tahoe. An abundance of magnificent trees and impressive greenery surrounded the area, permeating the air with a soothing scent of crisp, fresh leaves. The trail was a scenic route that led to breathtaking views on top of the mountain. The hike was worth doing just for the marvelous surrounding nature, but the promise of the view at the end was like a delightful bonus from mother nature for our patience and perseverance. I was happy to allow the journey to be the destination, but I was also eager to reach the scenic pay-off at the top.

As I was walking on the trail, I came upon a massive tree that had fallen across the path (video below). Its presence was in jarring contrast to the grace and peaceful nature that encompassed the harmonious landscape. I reflected on how it was a powerful and poignant metaphor for the unexpected obstacles that land on our path throughout life. 

Just like the hike, there are numerous ways in which we can respond to roadblocks in life. We may begin to doubt whether this is the right path for us. Or we may think about all the other potential difficulties ahead and simply turn around, deciding it isn’t worth the climb, retracing our steps to where we came from. Often, we choose safety and familiarity over uncertainty or fear of the unknown. 

Renowned neuroscientist Beau Lotto once observed, “Nothing interesting begins with knowing.” When we retreat back to a place of comfort and knowing, we prevent ourselves from experiencing something new and expanding our life or world view. This minimizes or eliminates any chance of growth. While it feels emotionally safe to stay where we have been, that’s exactly where we remain, continuing to only repeat our past experience.

If we bail every time there’s an obstacle or difficulty—with career pursuits, health goals, work or relationship conflicts—we may find ourselves starting new projects, ideas or career paths and never seeing them through. We become trapped in an endless cycle of uncompleted projects, unfulfilled goals and untapped potential. That can result in a very unrewarding existence that feels purposeless.

Or, we can resolve to make our way over, under, around or through the opposing obstacles. It requires more effort and flexibility, but that temporary discomfort can lead to a much more rewarding place than where we have always been. 

If we stay on the path of discovery, possibility and potential, rather than the monotonous and unfulfilling road of “knowing,” the climb will far outweigh any temporary discomfort. Because it leads us to the top of the mountain, enjoying an extraordinary new view we could never have imagined.