There was a time in my life when I would have considered this story I'm sharing with you a failure. I would have beat myself up for doing things “the wrong way.” And I would have been too embarrassed to tell you the truth – that I “cheated” my way to the finish line.

It all started on a spectacular October day in Asheville, NC. My husband and I were on a mini get-away before a business meeting and we planned to spend the day biking our way around the countryside, soaking up the fall foliage and treasuring some much-needed couple time. I had been praying for the gift of a beautiful day so we could experience God’s creations in all their autumn splendor! We intentionally chose a route that was described as “rolling hills” rather than “steep mountain passes” because I had no desire to spend the following day limping around town searching for Advil.

As we parked the car at the starting point, we realized that the first part of the ride would be on a heavily congested road that was under construction, making it unsafe for biking. Despite my exceptional skills as a navigator and map-reader (Girl Scout training!), I made a tactical error in adjusting our route. I found a small (seemingly harmless) road that would eliminate the construction and put us back on the original path.

Unfortunately, I did not notice the elevation changes on the detour and my splendid Saturday excursion quickly transformed into a painful test of strength and endurance. One minute I was chatting about the babbling brook and the beautiful old barn and the next minute I was facing a steep and windy road with no guardrail or sidewalk. (Have I mentioned before that my husband loves this kind of ride?)

At first, I was in denial. It couldn’t possibly be as steep as it looked! I shifted into my lowest gear and was determined to make it to the top – slow and steady. I knew if I stopped I would never be able to get back on my bike again. So I kept pedaling, my heart racing, my eyes filling with sweat from my forehead…just praying I would see the top of the mountain around the next bend. But each time the road twisted and turned, I was greeted with a new stretch of asphalt, just as long and unforgiving as the last.

Eventually I gave in. I got off my bike, told my hubby to keep going and started walking my bike in shame. It took me awhile to catch my breath and I realized that walking up the hill was almost as challenging as riding. When I finally reached the top, my extreme athlete husband was waiting for me with a huge smile and a hug! Here I was feeling like a failure because I couldn’t bike to the top, and he was so proud of me because I had made it there – one way or another.

It took me a few minutes to admit that I was proud of myself, too. I had to let go of my belief that there was only one way to the top of that mountain, and recognize that it didn’t matter that I did it my way – the end result was the same. And the view was just as rewarding. (If you’ve never seen the Blue Ridge mountains in October, you are missing out on one of God’s most spectacular canvases!)

I see my life journey in much the same way. Sometimes it’s frustrating because I know others who are “further along” the road to the top and I can’t seem to keep up. Whether it’s the journey of motherhood or entrepreneurship, I seem to compare myself to those just beyond my reach. Then, when I think I’m almost “there” on a particular phase or goal, I realize that there’s another long road ahead. And I fall victim to the pressure of all the things the experts tell me I “should” be doing. Well – no more beating myself up! I’m going to walk that bike of mine and be proud! When in doubt, I will remember my accomplishment in the Asheville mountains and find the encouragement and motivation to continue.

If you care to join me on this imperfect excursion, keep in mind the following lessons from my steep and windy road to the top:

 “Pretty” Doesn’t Matter:  Just because I don’t look like Lance Armstrong, doesn’t mean I can’t get to the top of the mountain. The same concept holds true in any goal I set for myself – we don’t have to be 100% polished and perfect every step of the way. We just need to decide to do it!

Tools and Training Won’t Do the Work for You: I didn’t have the proper tools (bike gears) to succeed at my task. Nor did I have the proper training. Sometimes I think we get caught up in buying the latest technology, reading the best selling parenting books and earning a set of credentials…then we remember that Disney got their start in a garage, Mother Teresa was filled with doubt and Bill Gates dropped out of college to launch his career.

Change is not the Same as Failure: So I had to change my plan – I had to walk part of the way. But I didn’t quit. And I didn’t fail. I simply made a change. God directs us on new paths all the time – he simply calls us to shift our focus…and yet, sometimes we see that change as failure. We need to give ourselves permission to change our plans every once in awhile, as he calls us to do. To explore a different tactic or a new route to success. To discover HIS plan for us.

Do it Your Way: It’s easy to become brainwashed by all the messages out there about how you “should” raise your children or run your business. But even if you follow all the rules and do what all the experts proclaim, you may still find yourself at the bottom of a mountain of stress and frustration. It actually takes more courage and faith to accept the wisdom and inspiration of others and then create a unique path for your business and your family.

Never Underestimate the Power of Support: Without a doubt, if I had been on that mountain alone, I would not have made it to the top. The one thing that kept me going was the fact that my husband was ahead of me. If he didn’t have faith in me, he would have gotten off his bike and offered to push both bikes up the hill. But he didn’t do that. He pedaled on ahead because he knew I would be just fine. (He actually rode back down the hill a few times to check on me – and to prove that it wasn’t difficult for him!) But just knowing that he believed in me and supported me was an energy boost more powerful than Red Bull.  If you surround yourself with friends and colleagues who believe in you as a mom and/or a business owner, then you set yourself up for success!

What kind of support do you have in your life? Is there someone who has more faith in you than you do in yourself?  How do you surround yourself with support so you can reach your own mountaintops?

Copyright 2011 Theresa Ceniccola