My body was shaking. Fear took over my body and mind. I suddenly noticed how alone I felt. I wondered, “Will my next step be my last?”

It was October 2018 – the first time I’d gone on a personal retreat on my own. Life as a business owner, mother and wife felt chaotic and overwhelming at times. I needed some space just for me – to reconnect with myself, to recharge and reflect on what mattered most to me.

Although I’d never been hiking before, I confidently set out on my first hike in Sedona, Arizona – Cathedral Rock, to be exact. I was awed by the beauty and energy of the mystical Red Rocks.

About halfway up the trail, the confidence drained right out of me.

I saw where the trail was supposed to lead, but it didn’t look like any trail I’d ever seen before. All I saw was a nearly vertical crack that snaked through smooth rock. I couldn’t see where my hands or feet were supposed to go.

I really wanted to make it to the top – to feel triumphant and confident about my first hike in Sedona. Instead, I found myself (literally) shaking in my boots.

As I stared up, trying to discern a way up there, rain started sprinkling, creating a glossy, slick sheen on the rocks. Fear, uncertainty and doubt consumed me, “What made me think I could do this on my own?!”

To create some space between me and the fear, I sat down in meditation. I focused on my breathing, noticing how the fear felt in my body. I tried to discern whether there was true danger ahead, or whether fear was playing a trick on me. After some time, I still had not found any clarity. The fear was still controlling my body. I gave up and started back down – disappointed in myself and the deflating start to what was supposed to be a glorious personal retreat. But then again, I didn’t want my first personal retreat to end with me in the hospital, or even worse – dead!!

I had only taken a few steps down the trail, when I spotted a woman hiking up, alone. Could she be a kindred spirit?

Something in me compelled me to speak to her. I stopped her, smiled, and then peppered her with questions, “Have you hiked this trail before? Is it hard? Are you going up there alone? Are you scared? Are you an experienced hiker? Do you think I could do this, even though I have zero hiking experience?”

She smiled at me and said, “Yes, I did this hike yesterday. The next part is the hardest, most technical part, but you can do it. Why don’t you come with me?”

A huge wave of relief washed over me. My new friend, Kate, was an angel. She appeared just when I needed her, when I was giving up. She reminded me that I’m never alone (even when it feels like I am). Her confidence and kindness gave me the boost of courage I needed in that moment.

So, we hiked up together. And, you know what? It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be!

Was it challenging? Yes! I had to wedge my feet, sideways, into the crack (which is not easy when your legs are shaking with fear!). But I did it!!

Turns out, there was a path right there all along, even though I couldn’t see it. All it took was one first step, taken in faith. Then, the next step appeared. It required my intense presence, focusing on just one step at a time.

After that, the rest of the hike felt easy! I felt accomplished and invigorated when I made it to the top! Moving through my fear rewarded me with breathtaking views.

The next time I hiked Cathedral Rock was in March 2020 (one week before a global pandemic was declared). My dear friend and Ellivate sister, Carri Scuba, joined me. Although I felt more confident this time, apprehension lingered. The fear I felt on that first hike – the shaking in my legs – it was still embedded in my brain.

Could I do this again?

Yes, I could. I would.

So, off we went. We encountered a mother and daughter on the trail. I could tell the mother was nervous – her fear was palpable. It took me back to my own experience 18 months ago.

We stopped briefly to connect with them. I shared how scared I felt on my first hike – that I got stuck. But, eventually I made it. Wanting to give her the gift that Kate gave me, I encouraged her.

Carri and I continued on the trail and soon found ourselves at that tricky little crack. It looked so different to me this time. I could see the path because I’d been there before!! I climbed confidently and swiftly – no shaking legs this time! I was a different person. I was stronger.

We hiked right to the top and were rewarded with awe-inspiring views. Feeling empowered by the relative ease of the hike, I dared to venture off the trail, along the rock walls – a place I was too terrified to consider on my first hike (in fact, I distinctly recall watching someone walk over to the cliff’s edge and felt certain they had a death wish!!). This time, emboldened by my new-found confidence, I became one of those insane people. I walked along the rock walls and stood at the cliff’s edge.

And you know what? It wasn’t as scary as it looked. It was actually fun!! Yes, it required intense presence to navigate…and it did make me nervous (especially if I looked over the cliff’s edge or even thought about what was below me). Yet, I knew I could handle it.

Carri and I struck some fun power poses, taking photos of one another on the cliff’s edge. A few people looked at us like we had lost our minds. Oh, how much had changed in just 18 months!

A few minutes later, as we were about to head back down, guess who we ran into? Yep, the mother-daughter hiking pair. They made it to the top! The mother looked different – with a huge smile and confident air about her. She said our encouragement gave her the confidence to keep going.

I took a few moments to reflect on how much I had changed over the past 18 months – how much stronger I had become. I became a different person when I conquered that first hike, and then again when I ventured onto the cliff’s edge on the second hike. In those moments, I expanded as a human being. I became someone who pushed through her fear of the unknown to find the adventure and possibility waiting for her on the other side.

This experience gifted me with five powerful lessons that I want to share with you. These lessons apply to all facets of life – whether you’re hiking, running a business, leading others, nurturing a marriage, raising a child, or anything else that matters to you.

  1. Just because you can’t see the path forward doesn’t mean it’s not there. Hold the vision of your desired results (your hopes and dreams!). You don’t need a map. Just take the next step in faith, and trust that your path is unfolding perfectly ahead of you.
  2. Use your fear as an indicator. Fear is a powerful tool. Instead of letting it get you stuck, allow it to expand you. Fear tells you when you’re at the edge. It tells you when it’s time to grow.
  3. You are never alone (even when it feels like you are). Ask for help. Let the confidence and encouragement of others give you a boost.
  4. Encourage those on the path behind you. Someone a few steps behind you may get stuck in their fear of the unknown. Be on the lookout for opportunities to connect with and support others. Be vulnerable. Let them know you’ve been there, too. Encourage them to keep going. Remind them they’re not alone.
  5. As scary as the unknown can feel, it’s the birthplace of expansion, adventure and possibility! When you gather the courage to step into the unknown, you level up. You become a stronger, more powerful version of YOU. You have more courage to take the next step into the unknown, and then the next…

I wish you much love as you navigate your unknown to discover the adventure and possibility waiting for you on the other side!! May you feel confident and courageous, knowing you have a community of incredible women who believe in you!

With deep love and gratitude,

Sarah signature