I recently went on an amazing leadership retreat to the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee. There was no real plan or itinerary; however there were plenty of things to do if you chose to do so. One thing I did was go on a hike. I have this love for nature and enjoy just looking at all the diversity it has. I have found that nature also has a lot to teach us about life and ourselves if we are keen to pay attention.

There was a fairly large group of us who went on this hike (around 14 of us). The trail we hiked followed the path of a mountain stream. It was quite beautiful and we were quick to explore the giant rocks that littered the stream. It wasn’t some rippling brook. It was well over 40 or 50 feet wide in many places.

As we continued on our hike, the trail became quite narrow and much steeper just past the 2 mile marker. Some of those in the group had small children and they decided they were not going to continue. We were on a mission to find some waterfalls and we hadn’t seen anything of major significance, as far as waterfalls go.

A friend of mine and I decided to forge ahead. We both like to stay physically fit and so we picked up the pace and trekked deeper into the forest in search of our waterfall. Not too much further along the trail, off to our left, we saw an amazing waterfall. It wasn’t huge, but it had 3 distinctly separate falls. It was an amazing sight.

In our quest for something bigger and better, we continued moving up the trail. It was narrow and littered with tree roots. It was only wide enough for us to walk one behind the other and had about a twenty degree grade to it. It wasn’t 15 minutes and we found an amazing spot. It wasn’t the giant waterfall that we had hoped to find, but it was awe inspiring for sure.

The waters were crystal clear, cool and made the most relaxing sound as they crashed and tumbled over the boulders that littered the bed of the stream. At one point my friend took off his shoes and rested his feet in the cool waters. We spent about 20 minutes enjoying the beauty of this place.

While I completely understood why the others had decided to turn back (their children were younger than 3 years old), I thought to myself the reward we had received through our perseverance. The funny thing was it wasn’t what we expected it to be, but it was still just as amazing as what we had anticipated.

This is quite telling of how our lives are as well. There are many times that we start out on a journey in hopes of finding a particular destination. We haven’t traveled that particular path before, but we are willing to take things as they come in the hopes of finding what we envisioned to be. There may be others who begin the journey with us and for whatever reason they may choose to not continue on the same path.

It is the perseverance we practice in our lives that leads us to a place of beauty and serenity, if we aren’t so focused on the destination that we aren’t able to enjoy the journey. Even if the destination looks different than how we imagined it to look, we can still appreciate the value of it, should we choose to do so.

If you are in a tough spot or feel that you have been left alone and are facing a steep climb, let me encourage you to keep moving forward. Enjoy the little surprises along the way. Stop to appreciate them, much like my friend and I stopped to enjoy the beauty of the unexpected waterfall we found on our left as we were in search of something else.

Your destination may not look exactly how you envisioned it to be, but it will be beautiful nonetheless because of the effort and energy you poured into getting there. Life is a series of hiking trails that lead us to various places. Watch out for the roots across your path, but don’t let them deter you from forging ahead. We just go around once in life, so enjoy yourself!