Leadership Learnings From My 125-kilometer Solo-Walk In Spain

Nov 16, 2022 5 Min Read
A woman on a solo-walk on some hilly terrains

Vector image is from freepik.com by @upklyak.

Having The Right Mindset Determines Success

Starting out as the founder of a brand-new coaching school – Frances’ Coaching School, I invested a significant amount of my time, energy, effort, brain power, to navigate the numerous challenges and demands of registering a global gold-standard program and then running the coach certification program.  Before completing the execution of the first coaching program, I received a spiritually guided message to go on this Solo-Walk in Galicia region, North-West of Spain. This walk is the famed “Camino de Santiago” which has been around for more than 1000 years.  The designated starting point of the walk was in Lugo, the UNESCO world heritage city and ending point was in Santiago de Compostela.  The designated length of the walk was 100km. I was to complete this distance in a period of 6 days and receive a certificate upon accomplishment. 

I went as a frightened person, so unsure, lacking clarity over many aspects of the walk.  

I survived.

I returned as a transformed person with trust in myself, stronger faith in a higher power guiding me, patience with myself and others, more resilient to overcome the many challenges I faced, more courageous and empowered as I completed this arduous task, which turned out to be 125km.  

So, what led to this transformation?  These are my 3 key reflections and learnings.

Leadership Learnings

#1: I was open, humble, trusted myself 

When I received the spiritually guided message, I resisted and rejected it. I felt drained, as it was after I had done a humungous task.  I gave lots of excuses/reasons as to why I could not do it.  This would be the biggest hurdle in my life.  It would be an extremely big stretch out of my comfort zone.  For each excuse/reason - I was inspired to put some action steps in place so I could be ready. I also felt that this adventure would enable me to rejuvenate my energy, get closer to the universe, build up my self-belief and self-confidence around my purpose, viz., I am doing the right thing, at the right time, with and for the right people.  I was seeking clarity and the conviction.  Hence, I accepted this adventure. I humbled myself, I trusted myself and created an open mindset to accept whatever may cross my path on this journey

#2:  Chunking down, staying in the present

All my preparation plans made with my tour agent in Malaysia, got debunked, starting with the change in weather, the harsh terrain, the lack of toilets, the lack of cafes, the lack of people, the lack of signage along the walk, and more.  None of what he had told me happened on Day 1 and 2.  Instead I faced the bleak truth of walking alone for a whole day, not knowing which path to take, the weather turned into a heatwave, my shoes were unsuitable for the terrain, there were no toilets, there were no cafes to find food and I did not know where to find my accommodation.  Towards the end of the day, a Spanish couple appeared out of nowhere.  They approached me and asked if I knew the way.  They decided to accompany me.  They shared their food, they walked with me and led me to my accommodation for the night, as their agent had booked the exact same lodge for them. 

The extent of my loneliness, hunger and exhaustion created massive doubts in myself, whether I had made the right decision and whether my body could continue and survive for the full 100km journey.  I was seriously contemplating on throwing in the towel as the burden felt unbearable. I rested that night with these doubt-filled questions.  In the morning, I experienced a surprising feeling.  I was filled with some supernatural aid.  I felt fresh.  That one (and only) Panadol I consumed, magically removed all the pain that wrecked my body. I was inspired to do two things; firstly – to keep my focus on my original intention of seeking clarity and conviction and secondly; not to focus on the whole journey, rather to chunk it down to one day at a time, to be present to what that one day would unfold for me and find creative ways to navigate those challenges. That became my mantra for the remaining 5 days. 

#3: Be open to receive Blessings

As I continued my walk, Day 3 to Day 5 turned out to be more pleasant.  The scenery became greener, the trees provided lots of shade, numerous beautiful cafes were dotted along the path, tasty food was plenty and toilets were available.  More people were walking along the path.  Making friends with total strangers was a gift to be cherished.  These strangers started treating me like family.  They felt I was giving them a gift of love and taking care of them by showing them the way on the walk as well as accompanying them to their hotel.  I felt comfort.  I felt blessed.  I did not give up despite the harshness I experienced in Day 1 and 2.  I recalled my coaching clients and how I empowered them to not give up when they felt downtrodden.  I continued to listen to the voice of my ‘inner guide’ who gave me inspiration and ideas on how to  navigate totally new incidents that occurred to me.  I was filled with courage and resilience.  I felt empowered.  I felt I could walk another 125km. 

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I continue to apply these three learnings in my day to day work.  I do make a gentle plan of action.  I observe closely to what extent I am able to fulfil the plan.  If there are any incidents of hijacks to my plan, then I reflect and review that the learning around the hijacking is.  Then I use my “inner guide” to support me to make the right decision to move forward. 

I have given myself a gift. I know myself better. I have empowered myself.  I have no fear of uncertainty.  I am willing to let go of my plans.  My body cooperates with me once I set my intention of doing an arduous task.   I Believe in Myself.  I have inspired myself. Have I inspired you? 

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Dr. Frances Penafort is currently the Director of GPS for Professional PLT. Her coaching philosophy is to partner with leaders in their transformation journey so they can show-case their better-version! She specialises in being a catalyst of transformation to all her coaching clients and supports leaders to evoke the resourceful energy of their team to achieve their stretched targets. Click here  for more information on Dr. Frances.

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