Jurica Barac is an ex-Red Bull BMX athlete, and the co-founder and CEO of a long-distance hiking expedition company called Highlander. So when he faces a roadblock at work or in life, it makes sense that he turns to the great outdoors. But the reason why might surprise you.
“When I need a feeling of success, I go for a 10-mile hike,” Barac says. He knows that once he finishes, he’ll have a concrete “win” to boost his confidence, and he’ll “be back in balance,” he says. Essentially, in order to give himself the fortitude to overcome a challenge in one part of his life, he demonstrates to himself that he can surmount a challenge in another area.
“If you have the feeling of finishing something every day, then it’s most likely that you will finish bigger and bigger things,” Barac says. “Feelings are habits.”
A pro’s tips for hiking motivation
Hiking doesn’t always guarantee that “finishing feeling,” however. Sometimes it gets too hard, or tiring, and we find ourselves coming up with excuses for why we need to turn back early.
If you’re someone who’s often tempted to call it quits prematurely, Barac has some suggestions to help you keep going. And he knows what he’s talking about: In addition to going on five-day Highlander expeditions multiple times a year, Barac goes on 10-mile-or-so hikes around two or three times a month just for fun.
Name what you want to get out of the hike
Barac’s first piece of advice for finishing what you start is to have a clear idea of what it is you’re trying to finish in the first place. That is, set a goal for the hike. The goal can be distance or time-based, but you can also set goals based on the way you want to feel, or things you want to do or see. Having a non-arbitrary goal in mind that you’re committed to from the outset diminishes the temptation to turn back early, in Barac’s experience.
The goal should be attainable—don’t try to accomplish something you’re not physically set up to finish. Which goes into Barac’s second piece of advice…
Be prepared for the hike you’re taking
“A big part of this is really how prepared you are, and how you condition,” Barac says. “Most of the hard times on hikes come from bad equipment or the wrong diet.”
A 10-mile hike is not the place to try out your new hiking boots. Wear them around the house, and go on shorter walks in them before taking them on a long trail. And make sure you have enough snacks—and water!—to fuel as many miles as you’re aiming to conquer.
Plus, Barac says that on Highlander expeditions, someone can be in great shape, but if they have not practiced distance hiking beforehand, they’ll be hurting in places they didn’t even know existed. Even if you’re not heading out on multi-day expeditions, when you’re setting your day’s hiking goal, Barac says to take your physical readiness into account. Consider the terrain, the elevation, and the weather in addition to the distance, and be honest about what your body is prepared to handle. That way you can work up to longer and longer hikes, practicing that feeling of finishing—making you all the more likely to successfully finish again and again in the future.
Know when to call it
At the same time, Barac says sometimes conditions just aren’t right. Maybe it’s super hot. Maybe you don’t have enough water or sunscreen. Maybe you’re having tummy troubles. Listen to your body and figure out what your roadblock is, knowing that ultimately, on a hike, you’re doing something just for your own personal enjoyment.
“You don’t need to finish every hike,” Barac says. “You don’t need to finish every task in your life.”
But if you find yourself on the trail, with a goal in mind, all the equipment you need, and all the training behind you, and you’re still having trouble putting one foot in front of the other, Barac has one more trick up his sleeve.
“Just ask yourself what are the hardest situations in your life that you went through, and compare them with this situation,” Barac says. “Put this on the scale, and you’ll see that you can really finish this.”
Once you’ve got your answer, then just take it one more step at a time.