I was on a hike out West last weekend. I’m no Patagonia-clad expert, but I enjoy a good sweat and the opportunity to get a tan while exercising (okay, I got burnt). We hiked uphill first, took in some views, and then started the walk back down. I was initially looking forward to the walk down, thinking it would be easy. It’s really not.
There are books, blog posts and more about “the uphill climb,” likening to career. Many say that the hard work and tough times are what make you. Yes, they do. But not many people talk about the thoughtfulness required when navigating down a mountain. I likened it to when things are easy, or business might be a little slow. Here’s where my head was once we reached the bottom:
Maybe you have a few days between client meetings, or are coming off end-of-quarter madness and have some breathing room. This is a great time to practice control in your work. Put a little more thought in your writing or daily emails. Revisit an old initiative with a refreshed perspective. Check in with your colleagues and make yourself available to help them with the crazy times they may be experiencing. You don’t have to stop working, but you can move at a pace that is thoughtful, purposeful, and fulfilling.
The flipside to no control—a misstep or carelessness can cause you to slip and fall (a sloppy project or a half-hearted interaction), or not giving enough space to that rattlesnake that is clearly within striking distance (when competitor takes a prospect you felt you had the right to win).
Take stock of what you have
A downhill hike is not the time to forget to hydrate or snack. Take a gander at what you need before you reach the end of your hike, and work backwards from there to pace yourself. When you have time in business, examine what may have been working or not working lately, and make an effort to streamline a process or improve a relationship with a vendor (maybe negotiate a discount for the next contract, while you’re at it!). Re-organize your desk and consider lessons learned from past work, and how it can make you better today.
Enjoy it (but don’t get soft)
Sometimes we’re so caught up in ramping up and getting through a busy season or a huge project that we can’t even relax once it’s over. Many years of that can lead to being overtired or anxious. If things are steady and you have some time to yourself, even an afternoon, learn something new. Attend a presentation that might give you an edge on something you were unfamiliar with in the past.
Things don’t have to be an uphill grind all the time. But appreciating the downhills for what they are can help you be prepared for that next uphill battle.