An Approach to Life

By | Stephen Burns
November 2018

When you begin climbing, highlining, and participating in other adventure sports, you stop ‘hiking’ and start ‘approaching.’ Often, the thought of the approach inspires eye-rolling and groans, seen as the strenuous but necessary precursor to the real adventure. In this piece, Stephen Burns contemplates the importance of the approach in all aspects of a fulfilling life.

How we approach something says everything. As anyone who has spent any time in the outdoors with a goal to do something great is aware, an approach is always necessary. Sometimes it's just the short drive to the roadside crag, though often it’s a journey that involves effort, carrying weight, sweat, and countless stops to look up at the goal that seems so far away. Be it a peak, a crag, a run-in with a stranger, or a committed relationship with a partner, they all require an approach.

An approach is a commitment, an investment to achieving a goal, with a destination worthy of our time and energy. Often times the means to the end is overlooked as if the goal was all that ever mattered. But it's that means that often ends up defining the result. The approach matters just as much as the destination.

To discount that which brought us to where we are is to discount the process, the learning, the wisdom we developed to be able to achieve any semblance of our goals. So what does it mean to approach with no goal? Well, that's called hiking. To not seek that destination is merely a scenic treadmill, a prosaic and mediocre journey that rarely seeks anything larger than itself.

To hike through life is to slog, stopping at times to lap in the view, smell some flowers, and bask in one's own "Life is Good" baseball cap, only to return to the comforts of existence with an implied sense of self-satisfaction that something was actually achieved with one's life.  In the end, to hike is to put effort into finding yourself right back to where you started, having never really done anything worthwhile, with perhaps a pretty photo to prove it.

When one approaches, life takes on a radically new meaning. Goals matter, because to turn around means you just went hiking.  An approach is a one-way journey to a place far greater than each step taken to get there, yet still requiring the value and meaning in each bit of effort expressed.  It means we seek something greater than ourselves, a challenge, a pinnacle, a summit. A sylleptic means to seek a higher peace in our brief yet meaningful existence. It's when we choose in our approach to life to celebrate the approach that life becomes a series of challenges and goals with each step towards purpose, be it large or small.  It is when we choose to approach life that we choose to seek a final destination, give meaning to our existence, and no longer wallow in that which doesn't serve us.

The approach itself rarely receives the credit it deserves, often being regarded as a hurdle towards some greater meaning, but simply choosing to approach awards us a perspective and purpose, the value of which value, whether recognized or not, permeates our whole being.

The value in and point of living comes from how we choose to go about it. So long as one is approaching there is meaning to be found, and if it doesn't feel that way, maybe you need to try a different approach, or maybe you just went hiking...


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Interested in contributing to The Dust Magazine? Check out our submissions page.