Sometimes, personal growth happens when you least expect it.

While on vacation, most of us are excited about the adventures we’re having; we’re not always looking to learn life lessons while we travel. In recent years, my husband and I took up hiking as an outdoor hobby. We are not “avid” hikers, but we enjoy it and tend to plan our vacations around opportunities to hike where we can encounter natural breath-taking views. However, one trip in particular stands out because it taught me 4 lessons about personal growth, and I want to share them with you.

Personal Growth When Pushing Your Limits

Several summers ago we took a 10-day road trip to experience the natural beauty of northern California. After an adventure up the coast to the Redwood Forest and then back though wine country, we decided to visit Yosemite National Park for a little hiking. On our last day, on advisement from a park ranger, we decided to hike the 8.5 mile Panorama trail that began at Glacier Point (7200 feet elevation), then down and around to Nevada Falls and ending in the valley (4000 feet elevation).

Now, for the record, my husband is an adventure junkie. But for me, looking down from the start of the trail and across the extreme mountainous terrain leading toward our final destination, I couldn’t help but think, “I’m not so sure I can make this hike.” Instead, I pushed back the negative thoughts, knowing this trail would offer the best views of the amazing natural wonder that is Yosemite. It would mean hard work but I was determined.

Personal growth lesson #1: You have to change your attitude and negative self-talk to reach goals.

Personal Growth With Obstacles

About 5 miles into the hike, I realized that I was still feeling pretty good and I might actually complete the trek with energy to spare. Well, NOT EXACTLY!

The last 3.5 miles were a series of switchbacks going uphill over 1000 feet, and then downhill on unstable terrain that finished with hundreds of steep granite steps that were often slick with moisture from the mist of a huge waterfall cascading from above.

This final decent had my knees shaking and my heart pounding making me think, “I’m going to be a statistic the park rangers talk about after they helicopter me off this mountain!” Then I had an epiphany when I remembered something I often tell my struggling clients.

“There is a profound difference in the words, WANT TO versus HAVE TO”.

I did not WANT to continue. I was overwhelmed. Maintaining this level of thinking was really going to end in that undesired statistic. With the “have to” attitude, I acted with reluctance and misery, both physically and emotionally. When I changed my thinking to “want to”, I was able to get past my pain and accomplish my goal.

Personal growth lesson #2: Miraculously, when we think with “want to”, we have self-motivation and desire to problem solve and move past internal and external obstacles.

Personal Growth Through Support

I did make it back to that valley floor at Yosemite National Park, about 2 hours behind projected schedule. It took one step at a time, many rests every 100 – 200 feet, and the constant encouragement of my husband with every step. He was extremely exhausted himself, but he never once wavered in cheering me forward.

Personal growth lesson #3: Keep close to those that encourage and believe in you, especially when you doubt yourself.

Personal Growth in Rewards

The rewards of accomplishing this goal were minimal at first. We ate a simple hot meal and rested the remainder of the day along the Merced River watching the wildlife. Reflecting back on this experience and looking at our amazing pictures, I realized that the long-term rewards of this adventure were beyond measure. We had accomplished something that was personally fulfilling and it was based on a rather simple vacation goal.

Personal growth lesson #4: Even in the toughest moments in life, there really are silver lining rewards awaiting you.

Things can look difficult and almost impossible. Hopes and dreams can seem unachievable because of all the obstacles in the way. Maybe, at times more skills and encouragement are needed. Rest assured, the reward in these growing pains will be worth it! Just take one step at a time.

We never know when lessons for personal growth will happen in our lives.

This story was originally published on Talkspace.

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