There probably aren’t many people around who remember the comic strip, Pogo and the famous line,

“We have met the enemy and he is us.”

– Pogo (a.k.a. Walt Kelly)

The internet says this line was originally a poster to commemorate Earth Day, but I recall in the comic the critters were tracking footsteps, getting ready to defend themselves against some invaders when they realize they have been walking around in a circle and they are actually out to defend against themselves, these are their footsteps! I might be wrong. That comic probably came out when I was eight years old.

That’s not the point. The line applies to many things in our lives.

Often, I think I would be more satisfied with my life if I got out into nature more, but I have to work. I was thinking that today, sitting in my office on a beautiful fall day, when it occurred to me that no one was making me stay inside. No one would even have time to look at the document I was working on until Monday. It would make absolutely zero difference if I went hiking this afternoon and then worked in the evening. I doubt my students are sitting around with baited breath waiting for me to grade their assignments this minute.

The only person stopping me was me

Malibu today

Well, that and the fact that once I got up in the mountains, my GPS quit working because there was no signal, so I never did find the trail where I intended to go hiking. It worked out fine, though. First, we went on a short walk around a park in Malibu, ended up seeing some beautiful views from the top of the mountain and then topped it off with walking along the rocky shore, sitting around looking at the ocean.

How often do we find ourselves saying we can’t do something or we have to do something else when, in fact, the only person telling us that is ourselves?

Is the view worth the hike?

Here is my secret to having far less stress in my life – it happened when I realized that most of the outcomes in my life were up to me. As today proves, I have to remind myself of this fact often.

When we were in the National Science Foundation iCorps program, one of the instructors was fond of saying, whenever a decision came up, whether a new feature, new customer or even if the company should continue, “Is the view worth the hike?

Her point was that this is YOUR decision to make. I have been fortunate to work most of my life with good people on interesting, worthwhile assignments. Still, I knew if the hours got too long, the tasks too boring or the customers too demanding, or the weather too cold (I’m looking at you, North Dakota!) I always had the option to leave and do something else.

Who says so?

Who says you have to stay at your desk this minute and cannot go to the mountains for two hours and do this report later? Who says you have to work on Saturday and can’t spend the day watching your child play football? Who says you have to clean the house instead of paying someone else to do it?

Probably, you are not this minute reclining on a huge pile of money that enables you to quit your job and spend your days boating to your private island. Still, you likely have made choices that you imagine are barriers. Whenever anyone complains about how much they hate their job, I wonder if we have brought back indentured servitude in this country and no one told me.

Oh, but I don’t understand! You would have to sell your house, move to another state to find a better job, put your kids in new schools, find a new place to live. I was whining about exactly this 25 years ago and my friend, Virginia said,

You’re right. It will suck. It will suck for the next six months, and then the rest of your life will be better.

– Virginia, Accounting Professor and Occasional Life Coach

The next time you find yourself in a situation where you are stressed out, ask yourself if it is really you who is making this stressful. Do you have a terrible boss/ co-worker / customer / spouse and are dreading the next encounter with them? Realize that the decision is really up to you, whether the view is worth the hike. If it is, you’ll stay. If not, walk away.

Yes, it really is that simple.

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