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The magic torch: How perception can make all the difference

Tuesday, 3 September 2013 | By Walid El-Khoury

A gruelling 100km walk in the hilly bushland of New South Wales gave me a valuable example of a basic but powerful business principle.


If you say it’s a heartbreak hill, then it is


The Oxfam 100km Trailwalker on the Great North Walk has many “heart break” hills that truly deserve that name. Most of the walk (day and night) is over bush tracks and fire trails.


But you cannot enjoy the scenery for long before you find yourself flat on the ground from tripping over a rock or a branch; not to mention slipping down the side into a local creek or river.


And when you add more than a 45-degree incline, you may agree that “heart break” is an understatement. Not only do you have to gasp for every breath of air, but you have to watch every step, negotiate your body between boulders, over rocks and fallen branches – all while your heart rate cannot go any higher.


But something was different that night


During the night, we found ourselves at the top of many of those hills without stopping for breath once, or breathing like a wounded bull once we arrived.


But this painless experience did not happen for the steep hills we crossed during the day. Was the coolness of the night a huge factor in moderating the pain? Did we magically break through the pain barrier after 12 hours of ups and downs?


The magic torch


Then I realised the magic was in my head torch! Yes, thanks to my head torch, which has very limited lighting range, I was only able to see a few metres ahead of me. So stopping and looking up the hill and thinking “all this way to go!” was not an option. My mind was completely absorbed on the next step, the next action. There was no room for any energy-sapping thoughts or distractions, even if I tried.


Looking up does not make the hill disappear; but small steps can get you to the top before you even realise it.


Link your daily actions to your future vision


Whether you are a start-up or an established business, you will undoubtedly face overwhelming demands on your time and attention. Just remember that what counts are your small actions now. While the complexity (and uncertainty) of the outcomes in the future may not be under your control, these small steps are, and they will get you to your goal.


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