Today we hiked another part of “the AT” called Hawk Rock. This one was another difficult, long hike, with a steep incline in the first mile or so. Unlike last week, I felt fresh and ready for this hike, and it was an exhausting but wonderful experience. And it was a little lesson in perception.
As part of my job in higher ed administration, I usually teach once a year, and I often teach organizational behavior. One of the chapters is about perception, with the big lesson being that the human brain puts “true” experiences or information through a lot of filters so our perceptions are not always correct. Some of these perceptual biases or effects were at work during our hike today.
First, I found that the difficulty of the hike was tempered by the social interaction we had. It was a difficult hike, but I didn’t feel it that much while we were actually hiking. We had lots of great conversation going, and instead of feeling difficult it really felt fun. However, I knew afterwards that it was physically challenging when I “laid down for a few minutes” upon getting home and fell asleep for 4 hours.
The second funny perceptual effect is that the hiking out seems to take so much longer than the hiking back. This hike was not a loop – we hiked one way on the trail for a certain amount of time, then returned back the way we came. On the way out, I keep thinking about whether we’re to the turnaround point yet. On the way back, I have no trouble zoning out a bit and socializing, and the time passes so much more quickly (it seems).
This is a great reminder to me that I need to be able to let things go a little bit. I tend to be very task focused, and I have trouble relaxing or clearing my mind any time I”m doing something that could be construed as a task. That can be good – it helped me get through school and college, and it often has rewards in the workplace too. But sometimes it works against my mental state, and it certainly isn’t conducive to relaxing or unwinding.
Once again I find that the physical challenge of these hikes is wonderful, but that the mental challenge is so valuable for my self awareness and mental state.