Hiking’s best lesson is delayed gratification

In today’s fast-pasted, connected and digital world, we have everything we want or need with the click of a button. Hungry? You can order food and have it delivered to your door. Need an item? Within seconds, you can order it online and have it be on it’s way. Want an answer to a question? A quick Google search can give you all the details. Instant gratification has become the norm in our society, and not always for the better.

As a result of the ease in which we can now meet our whims and desires, we’re more inpatient than ever. We want things QUICKLY; we things NOW. One of best examples of this is the checkout line at the grocery store: Next time you’re there, watch.

Wait for the senior to checkout — the one who pays in cash or check. The one who has a mound of coupons in their purse or wallet to dig out for the cashier. The one who chats it up with the cashier and says more than “fine” when asked how their day is going. Watch how the people in line behind this person act. You’ll see the eye rolls, body shifts and maybe even hear a few huffs. You’ll see how we can’t even checkout at the grocery store now without being inpatient. Never mind that we just went to a store filled with every type of food we could ever want!

This example is why hiking is so beneficial for us all — because it teaches us delayed gratification. There is simply no way to shortchange a long slog up a mountain. Whether you’re hoping to reach a summit, lookout or some unique historical destination, you have to put in the miles and the work. Even better, you have to strip down to the essentials while you do so.

If you want food or water on the trail, you have to carry it on your back. If you need to relieve yourself on the trail, there are no bathrooms waiting around the corner. Need a phone charger on the trail so you can take a picture for your friends? Too bad — you’re in nature. And if your body gets tired on the journey, you have to keep pushing through the fatigue. Hiking, while gratifying once the destination is reached, can often be anything but gratifying. That’s what makes it so special.

I believe all of us need to hit the trails more often and practice learning the immense joy of delayed gratification. While it may not seem enjoyable to trudge up a mountain in the heat or cold with a growling stomach and aching feet, I promise that you will feel beyond accomplished once you reach your destination. You’ll remember what it’s like to really put in the time and effort to get something. I think hiking has the power to make us all stronger, better humans one step at a time.

Stay tuned for more posts about the benefits of hiking and why you should strive to hit the trails more often. Thanks for reading!

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