Life is a series of challenges. As hunters, we often purposefully place challenges in our path to understand what it will necessitate to overcome them. Challenges are fraught with risk, but likely the greatest risk of all is not fulfilling your full potential. Each challenge is unique, but they all have a common thread of preparation. Preparation really comes down to four very broad progression cycles of hunger, desire, anticipation, and weakness. Each cycle is fraught with its own unique set of trials and progression timing. They all, however, take hold, mentally, physically, maybe even emotionally within us; all pointing towards this desire not to fail, but rather to test, and eventually even see what we are made of. The full potential of us. Every one of us has been there, likely many times. Each cycle tugs a piece of our willpower around and making us question why we are doing what we are doing.
“The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d rather not.”
There’s the cycle of hunger. Myriad articles, blogs, and books have been written on the subject, yet this more than any other mental fight comes down to willpower — the willpower to stick to your preconceived thoughts of what specific diet can maximize your body’s power output. Willpower has a significant foe, and it’s called life. Life catches up with all of us. Those nights when you walk in the door after working a ten-hour shift only to listen to two screaming children that seem to have lost all semblance of manners, respect, and cognitive ability. A wife who has been through such battles of explanation, futility, and unreasoned arguments with a toddler that you know not even to dare utter the words what’s for dinner, but rather turn right around, speed-dialing the local pizza parlor and placing an order for the largest pizza they have. That’s life. Life brings about that unscheduled travel that your day job requires, that necessitates entertaining clients to extravagant dinners and beverage consumption. Add to that the travelling road diet of flimsy aluminum-can energy drinks and trail mix, because we all know we have been there, choosing trail mix over the Little Debbie’s piece of goodness because it has to be healthier for us than what we know we want, even though it’s not real food — not by a long shot. It’s part of life; part of the cycle. The cycle of hunger reminds us that you are not perfect. You will slip off the wagon often, and as long as you climb, even claw yourself back onto it over and over again, you will continue to inch closer to your goal.
“The starting point of all achievement is desire.”
There’s also the cycle of desire. Desire ebbs and flows. This tidal cycle is echoed daily, weekly, and maybe even hourly. Listening to podcasts of self-help, with experts talking about overcoming mental weakness, allows us to make strides in our psyche to see what pushing the limits of muscle fatigue will do for our particular progress towards some goal of physical health. This new mindset suggests that we do pushups whenever that thought comes about, and allows one to spring out of bed at the mere whisper of the country song as the four a.m. alarm clock chimes. This mindset places an intensity of focus during the cardio workout, bobbing your head to the music, sweat pouring down your cheeks, creasing through the grin that you have plastered on your face as you mentally picture yourself on this journey. On that hunt.
There is, however, an ebb. I may even venture as far to say as there is always an ebb. There is always an ebb in desire, and before you know it you have not worked out in a week. Ten days pass by. The cycle of desire requires us to remember what we are doing it for. Remember that it’s a blip on the ever-increasing slope of making a better version of you.
“Wisdom consists of the anticipation of consequences.”
There’s the cycle of anticipation. The anticipation of what’s to come is greatest at the first and last step. For me, this example was the green bar of a state draw success for the chance at Barbary sheep in the mountains of New Mexico. For you, it could be booking that hunt of a lifetime, drawing that coveted tag that you have been putting money and preference points behind for several years, or even solidifying with a friend where next year’s over-the-counter hunt will occur. This anticipation is fueled by the cocktail of chemicals generated by your brain creating feelings of euphoria, excitement, and expectation. That wave of expectancy often fades quickly with time as life commitments take center stage. Like any good cycle, anticipation spikes occur at multiple time points leading up to the hunt, with receiving the said license in the mail, or breaking through a goal. These spikes of anticipation are tied to the wisdom of preparation, doing the things that need to be done beforehand to accomplish what we are setting out to accomplish. You almost have to watch yourself carefully that expectations have not superseded anticipation. Anticipation also really spikes during the very last moments before day zero. Through this cycle, you have to begin to train your mind to put aside anticipation, put aside fears of failure, and focus on what the hunt will mean to you.
“It’s so easy to be great nowadays, because everyone else is weak. If you have any mental toughness, if you have any fraction of self-discipline; The ability to not want to do it, but still do it; If you can get through to doing things that you hate to do: on the other side is GREATNESS.”
There’s also the cycle of weakness. There is a famous hunter who lives by the motto, “Nobody cares; work harder.” That’s true. No one cares. Work harder. It’s so easy to say, but harder to live. It’s all on me to wake up every morning at four and put in the work to make me better. Weakness is constantly an ever-escalating cloud, waiting for any moment to fog over the thoughts of pushing harder. Do another twenty pullups. Nah, ten is good for now. Let’s walk a little faster and little longer today. Nah, don’t you remember you have to be at work early today? Why don’t I raise the gear ratio higher today to increase the power output for this section of the bike ride. Why? Why do that? You’re not going to get that much more gain if you do that, plus, how are you supposed to work in the yard tomorrow if you can barely walk? This constant push and pull argument is not unique to me. Everyone experiences it, and thankfully, all we have to do is turn to our social media feeds and see people like Cameron Hanes or David Goggins, or listen to motivational speakers through podcasts or whatever other forum your heart desires to find the motivation to get up tomorrow, leave weakness in bed, and reignite that desire to be better.
Hunger, desire, anticipation, weakness are characteristics that we all wrestle with on any journey. The journey’s passage twists and turns to the beat of these human inadequacies. The cycle will continue, but the choice before us is simple. Work with, adapt to, and embrace fully, the cycle — or quit. And we all know quitting isn’t an option.
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