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Into the Wilderness – Overcoming Challenges to Achieve Your Goals

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Into the Wilderness – Overcoming Challenges to Achieve Your Goals

The wilderness. Forests, deserts, mountains. No matter what comes to mind for you, the mystification is usually the same.

Beautiful, yet dangerous. Home, yet foreign. Comforting, yet intimidating.

As humans, we generally feel a sense of belonging and foreboding – at the same time – when surrounded by a vast amount of nature. We’re seemingly cut off from the world we control and plunged into the untamed and unruly. We may feel vulnerable, weak and unprepared. We may also feel free, determined and unstoppable.

This is the same feeling you get heading into the unknown territory of trying to achieve your goals.  

Even with a well-written and detailed map, it’s easy to get off course. The map does you no good if you don’t review it periodically. When traveling from one place to another, chances are you don’t take one look at the map and then put it away for the rest of trip.

Likewise you can’t set a list of goals and timetables, and then expect not to miss a turn or become confused if you don’t refer to it along the way. The wilderness may be beautiful, but at the same time it’s filled with sights, sounds and obstacles that can discourage you, distract you and maybe even make you want to turn and run the other way.

You have to be prepared to start overcoming challenges, or – at the very least – adjust your course to keep moving forward.

My Journey

My “wilderness” – or at least how I see it in my imagination – closely resembles the forests of the Appalachian Mountains, here near where I live in southern Ohio. I’m surrounded by beautiful green trees, with leaves that filter the sunlight down below. I take one step at a time, enjoying the view as I go, but I continuously refer to my map. Why? Because hiding behind bushes and tree branches are all of the doubts, fears and mindsets I’ve historically fallen prey to. I’m no longer in the safe confines of a workshop with others. I’m out in nature, back among people with negative attitudes and those content with a life of complacency.

The danger of slipping back into my old mindset is real.

How easy would it be to sleep in for one day? Two days?
How much would a 10-minute nap hurt? A half-hour?
I might as well check out what’s happening on Twitter and Pinterest too.
Perhaps I’ll turn on the TV and sit on the couch for a bit of unwinding.

Every time I let this happen, I’m fully convinced that whatever I had put on my plate for the day can wait until tomorrow. Sure – these aren’t big decisions. They’re miniscule compared to the choices I could face.

But that’s just it. Choosing to make the right choice when the decisions are little is what it takes to go from surviving to thriving.

So how have I beaten it? How have I convinced myself day-in and day-out that these small decisions truly matter?

I look at the map and I remind myself of my destination. I picture the difference between feeling failure and triumph. And, given those two choices, those little decisions become bigger and much easier to make.


I outlined my goals in my last post. So, the question is: how’s it going? Well, it turns out that I’m my own worst enemy. While trying to single out the distractions that cause me to pause on my journey to thriving, I realized that they all began with a mindset of “I’m too little,” “It’s too much,” or “It won’t matter.”

Become more physically fit.

With what can be a physically demanding job, it’s easy to convince myself after work that I’m too tired to go to the gym or work out. Similarly, I was afraid that if I worked out in the morning, before work, I would be exhausted before the day even began.

I decided to bite the bullet and go running at 4 AM. You can imagine the half hope/half dread I felt when the alarm went off that first day. I knew I would never convince myself to work out in the afternoon, especially since that’s my prime time for making progress on my other goals. Therefore, if I was going to do this, I had to do it at 4 AM. So how did I overcome my fears and jump on the early to rise train?

  • I wrote out my own personal “Thrive with Five” poster, including goals and Bible verses or inspirational quotes that related to each specific area – body, work, relationships, contributions and spirituality/passion – and a section to keep track of my progress each day and hung them on the wall in front of my bed. I also snapped a picture of it with my phone and saved it as my screen saver. There is no way I can shut my alarm off without being reminded of my goals.
  • Speaking of alarms, I made sure to set mine to an upbeat tune, specifically a song that gives me an “I can rule the world!” mentality.
  • The biggest move for me? Get enough sleep. I know my limits and, if my body is saying I have to be in bed by 9:00, I am in bed by 9:00. If I’m still fully functioning until 10:00, that works. Eleven? Even better. But I never push myself anymore. I know when my body has had it physically and mentally and I know, at that point, I need to unplug in order to be fully rejuvenated for the next day.

And you know what? Turns out exercising in the morning not only didn’t drain me, but it gave me more momentum for the day! Instead of feeling exhausted before the day begins, I feel accomplished.

Invest and grow my connection with God.

When you already feel like you have a full schedule, taking time to stop and pray, meditate and read the Bible can seem tedious, daunting and unimportant. Life has taught us to feel that God can wait, that we don’t have the luxury of slowing down to reflect on a daily basis.

Almost every day I’m tempted to skip my ten minutes of meditation. What can ten minutes do anyway? For the first week I struggled incredibly. The only reason I would stop and reset after work is because I’d said I would (which, let’s face it, was not going to get me through my next 90 days).

In fact, somewhere around Day 8, I skipped meditation. That evening I sat down and was filling out my Thrive with Five scorecard for the day, and I had to leave the meditation checkbox empty.

As I was reflecting on this, I begin thinking of what I had done after work instead. What was it I did that I couldn’t spare those ten minutes? I ate. And, sadly, not like “grab a healthy snack and go” type snack, but one of those “just got off work and I need to eat everything” snacks. Then I spent an ample amount of time on social media, looking and relooking at the same posts as I switched between apps. Eventually I sat down and got to the tasks I had laid out for myself that day, but my entire energy and groove was thrown off.

Talk about a wake-up call.

Now, whenever I’m tempted to skip meditation, I ask myself, “What is it that I feel is more important than this ten minutes of reflection? And does this action help keep my day on track or will it possibly derail it?”

One of my biggest struggles is feeling overwhelmed and then freezing up, instead of acting. I’m sure many of you can relate, when you have a checklist as long as your arm and all of sudden no idea where to start. I’ve found that making sure I meditate helps because I take that time to clear my head and remember that it may be my plan, but it is God’s steps that keep me on my path toward the best version of me – and that keeps me moving. Now, not only will I meditate after work, but also during my days off when I need a moment to reset and refocus.  

Let those around me know how much I appreciate them.

When you’re convinced your schedule is full, you also convince yourself that other people’s calendars must be equally packed. Thinking that you’ll interrupt their day, they won’t have time to stay on the phone or that they already know how much you appreciate them can keep you from reaching out to a person close to you. You never know, though. They may really need to hear your encouraging, positive or loving words.

I started by calling someone whenever I was packing my lunch or doing another simple task that allowed me to give my full attention to the person on the other side of the phone. As I started implementing this schedule, I found out what times worked best for those I was calling (seven o’clock seems to work out pretty well for most) and was able to establish a sort of routine that fits itself perfectly within my day. I can wipe down the counter, throw laundry in the dryer or – in the off-chance I’m done with those household chores – I can sit and relax with a cup of tea while catching up with loved ones.

As for letter-writing, I chose a day during the week and made it a commitment. I purposely make it the last thing I do every Wednesday based on the fact that I schedule my Wednesdays lighter to begin with and, by waiting until the end, no other thoughts or tasks would be vying for my attention.

Grow professionally in my career.

The professional world can be an inspiring – yet intimidating – place. It can be exhilarating to be surrounded by so many people whose experience and knowledge is vaster than yours, but if you don’t control your thoughts it can also be discouraging. Thoughts such as, “I don’t have the experience everyone else does and therefore my ideas and thoughts don’t have the same value” can be detrimental to your confidence and ability to engage in conversation. I know. I have to fight them off regularly. 

Remembering that it’s possible to offer fresh perspectives (though they may seem preposterous) and still be open to the ideas around me can be difficult. I have a vast imagination and strong belief in “making the impossible possible.” I am the first to admit I throw out some of the most far-fetched (and sometimes downright silly) ideas in my circles, and some of my ideas are clearly “tainted” with youthful optimism and unbridled determination. But even though I dream big, I’m also willing to do. I will put the ideas I throw out into action.

Recently our team was discussing better ways to treat shoulder sores on sows. While we take measures to minimize the possibility of them forming, treating them when they do occur can be tricky. When treating a shoulder sore, the idea is that we want to dry it out so it can heal better. This is typically done by using a solution of iodine or drying agent. The trick? Finding a safe way to apply the solution for both the animal and the specialist. As ideas were being tossed around, I had a burst of inspiration. What about a paint roller? The solution could be put on the roller and the team member could apply it to the sore without the risk of placing their arm between the bars of the feeder or pen and the sow.

A paint roller – a simple, ordinary object. Sure, maybe the idea was a bit "out there", but my team decided to roll with it – no pun intended – and gave it the okay to try. Soon we'll be obtaining a few paint rollers and putting the theory to the test. Granted, some of my other ideas thus far are admittedly not entirely feasible (such roller blades to travel between farrowing rooms faster), but it was that same imaginative, quirky, no rhyme or reason, out-of-the-box thinking that lead to the paint roller.

As a member of the team, my input and thoughts are valuable in their own way. Everyone is a unique combination of life experiences, personality traits and outlook on life – and I’m no different. Who knows? Even though I may not have the solution all the time, my ideas could lead to the one that is some of the time. And that’s a thought process the leaves me fearless to share.

Volunteer my time and talents.

Did I mention I have a full schedule? I mean, really – exercising, working on goals, spending more time on my relationships…AND volunteering!? Previously I'd think, "As much as I would love to someday, I just can’t right now."

This mindset was fairly easy to change. Why? My heart is set on volunteering somehow, somewhere, in some fashion with what time and talent I have. You can fill your life with the four other areas (body, being, bonds and business), but I believe discovering a way to fill another’s life is the last step for me to go from surviving to thriving. It can be for one person or many, but making the time to reach out and contribute back to the world elevates my spirit and energy to continue on the road set before me. I have stopped underestimating the size of my contribution, knowing the ripple effect could be endless.

While it was easy to change my mindset, one major setback almost had me backing out again. I had been planning to apply at Children’s Hospital in Columbus since the end of June, knowing applications were open in August. However, as I sat down to apply, a window popped up indicating that they had already taken all of the applicants they could and to look at other opportunities. I knew there would be a large amount of applicants, and had assumed the process would be fairly lengthy to ensure the safety of the patients and staff at the hospital. But I never imagined they would stop taking applications. Now what?

In that moment I was frozen. I had never really formed a plan B. Thoughts such as, “Well, you tried,” “Maybe next time,” and “You were too busy anyway” started floating through my mind. I was all set up to give myself an easy out. I had done what I said I was going to do, hadn’t I?

But my heart is set on volunteering, on contributing.

What seemed like a setback was really an opportunity to pursue something else. It allows me to speak to some of my peers about starting a Bible study group, giving each other the same support and time I had intended to give at the hospital. It helped me realize the passion I had for encouraging and equipping those around me to pursue their “best versions of me” too, to go beyond what the world says and listen to what our creator says, "You will run and not grow weary. Be still and I (God) will fight for you. You will have trouble in this world, but do not worry for I have overcome the world."

Yes, I have a passion for letting others know that, throughout life, you can be filled with a steadfast joy, regardless of pain, loss and heartache. It's a hard lesson to grasp – I know because I learned the hard way. I was heartbroken when my plan A fell through. And I was really tempted to just let myself slide until October when I could try again. But this plan B I never saw coming is turning out to be much more than I ever imagined. I had my reasons for feeling like the hospital was my next step; however, there was a detour. This detour allows me to use my life experiences, time and talents in a way I hadn’t dreamed. How awful would it have been to let the detour throw me off course, like they have done so many times before? 

Enjoying the View

My mindset and feelings play a huge part in setting my habits. With the wrong mindset, you can tear yourself down and, in the process, let negative opinions and words of others tear you down as well. Acting based on “feelings” can be dangerous to the plans you have set for yourself and to your relationships. Focus on the goals set before you, look at your map and remind yourself how you imagine it will feel to arrive at your destination.

In the meantime, also don’t forget that not all distractions are bad.

Find yourself enjoying catching up with someone you don’t talk to nearly enough? It’s okay to spend the extra half hour (or even hour!) on the phone! Who knows? Maybe it’s exactly what the two of you need to keep going.

The chance to go out for a celebratory dinner or to enjoy a band you love comes up? Go and enjoy!

The list could go on. My point? Be sure to enjoy the journey. Half the fun is in getting there, right? 

Brittany Shears HeadshotBrittany Shears is a millennial on a mission to find “the best version of me”. She is a graduate of The Ohio State University with a dual degree in Animal Science and Agribusiness. By trade, she is in training to manage a sow unit in rural Ohio. Outside of work, she is active in her church and plans to be a minister, owns two horses and is an avid reader. It is her combined passion for agriculture and her faith, coupled with her supportive family and friends, which have inspired her from a young age. Brittany’s primary goal is to find an occupation that will allow her to showcase these two passions and incorporate them in her professional life. On her journey from dream to reality, she continues to gain invaluable experience and learn life lessons that propel her forward.

Follow along on the MJST blog as Brittany shares more about her journey from surviving to thriving over the next few months. Make sure to check out her first and second posts!

Want to move from surviving to thriving like Brittany?

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