Reaching New Heights: Embracing Challenges and Discoveries on the Path Forward

An experience written by CEO & President, Dr. Karen Johnson.

I have been hiking at Thunderbird Park for years and have hit the trails two or three times a week this spring. I go the same way each time—a 2-mile up-down-around loop, always passing by the optional path to the summit. I figure two miles is plenty and how good could the view of West Valley sprawl really be. This morning, I had time and was feeling good, so I decided to take the path up. I discovered that it wasn’t as steep as I had feared and the view was better than I expected. Here’s what I learned—the only way to reach the limit of your own potential is to stop challenging yourself. Whether it’s your career, your relationships, a volunteer opportunity, or a morning hike, if you push yourself, if you believe in yourself, you can do more.

At New Pathways for Youth, we teach our teens about “Try Ons,” the simple practice of trying something new, of approaching a problem in a new way, of seeing another person in a new light—of taking the path up. We also have a distinction called, “Don’t Know, Don’t Know”—an invitation to explore all the possibilities that you don’t even realize exist by being open to new things, by building connections with new people, by pushing yourself toward a new goal—by taking a new path. The beauty of our program is that the lessons work on the adults just as powerfully as on the kids. Personal development is a lifelong process of trying on new things and uncovering what you don’t even know you don’t know.

Did the summit path add an extra 1.5 miles to my hike? Yup. Was it worth it? Heck yes. Am I going to do it again next time? Absolutely. Happy Earth Day.