The 45 Degree Theory

Do you like hiking? Getting out in nature and enjoying the world for all its wonder? Going for miles… or days! I can’t say that I fall under the category of a “hiker” but I like to get out and about on my own two feet from time to time to see the world as much as anyone.

For some people though, hiking provides a sense of release. A sense of freedom and adventure. A notion of not knowing exactly where their chosen path will take them. A sense of resilience, knowing that they have no one to rely on but themselves to reach their destination. Independence. Solitude. Peace within. For others it is a physical challenge with the burning question “Am I strong enough to make it?”

Whatever an individual’s reasons for hiking are there is one binding principle… you have to know where you are and where you are going! And this is where I think hiking has some definite parallels to our own pursuit of improved performance….

Did you know that the optimum point to focus on when you’re hiking is 5 to 7 metres in front of you? At an angle of approximately 45 degrees from the ground. Why?

Well, if you spend the whole time looking too far ahead (90 degrees or greater), you don’t see what’s directly at your feet. You can trip over tree roots or stumble on loose rocks. You can get off track and lose your way. Or worse, you can step on a snake and then you’re really in trouble! In essence you lose sight of the small steps that make up the whole journey. The small steps that keep you moving towards your target…

From the opposite point of view (literally!), if you only ever look down at your feet, it can start to feel as though you’re not getting anywhere. Everything looks the same, the rocks, the tree roots, the dirt, the grass. The journey becomes monotonous, boring and you lose motivation. It wears you down. Every once in a while you need to look up to see where you are going. It becomes very difficult to hit your target if you can’t see it!

So where should you be focusing?

Well, you look at the mid-point, 45 degrees from the ground. This is the optimal viewpoint so your peripheral vision can take over and allow you to see what’s near your feet and what’s on the horizon. You can focus on where you are going, but still enjoy the beauty of the journey and what surrounds you now. Fixing your focus at 45 degrees sustains you by giving you the opportunity to enjoy the walk… and in the long run I think it gets you to your destination much faster.

If you only focus on your future goals you can fall flat on your face because in looking up at the entire “mountain” you have to climb you see all of what’s in front of you… and that can be overwhelming.

If you get caught only looking at the day-to-day tasks, of just “getting things done”, you can feel like you’re going nowhere… and you might actually be right!

So look to the mid-point, that 45 degrees (say 6 months away) in your goals. Glance up to the future some time… or look briefly down to the day-to-day. And suddenly it can all start to happen. That thing. That fantastic thing that happens when we set ourselves goals. That thing called Progress…

It’s a simplistic way of looking at things I guess, but it helps me keep the perspective I need to grow in the right direction. Maybe it can work for you?

Now, where did you put your hiking boots?

Here’s to higher success…