How Are Our Ethics Like the Appalachian Trail? -By Gary Burden-

Last year some of the younger men in the family thought it would be a grand adventure to take a three-day hike on the Appalachian Trail.  Now understand, as a rule, I don’t walk, run or have a regular exercise program.  But, I have three kids and I have been to Disney World.  What could be harder than packing three kids around on hot pavement for two days in a row?  Of course, that was probably 20 years ago.  But, at 58, I think I do fairly well for myself.

There were two different approaches that I could take, when preparing for this trip: First, be positive and assume that all will work out fine.  Second, consider the reality of the adventure and prepare.  I chose the second option.  After researching the trip, I found it rated “moderate” with an elevation change or 6,211 feet (Roan Mountain).  Prior to the trip, I started walking several miles at a time.  But, to prepare for the elevation change I decided to climb stairs.  Up and down the stairs in my home every morning up to 50 flights a day.  When the trip finally came, everything went well. 

As I look back on the trip, I remember all the views and good times.  I tend to forget some of the difficult climbs.  I don’t think about the freeze-dried meals that had no taste or texture to them.  I forget how hard the nights were, sleeping on the hard ground with no pillow for my head.  I dwell on the good experiences.  The views, the challenge and the fellowship that we enjoyed.

Ann E Tenbrunsel, Kristina A Diekmann, Kimberly a Wade-Benzoni and Max H Bazerman submitted a paper called, “The Ethical Mirage: A Temporal Explanation as to Why We Aren’t as Ethical as We Think We Are” to Harvard Business School.  In it they explain the three phases of an ethical situation.  The prediction phase, the action phase and the recollection phase.  When trying to make good decisions in our life, whether business or personal, are we being realistic about the situation?  Have we properly prepared ourselves for ethical challenges or do we just assume that we will work through them when they occur?  If we are realistic about our weaknesses we can prepare ourselves for the challenges ahead.  Preparation helps us get through the difficult choices.  After going through a challenging decision or experience, are we honest about the difficulties or do we choose to live in a glass bubble where all is perfect.  Learning from one’s challenges and failures is how we grow and mature.

Ethics is defined as an action or a response.  To make good choices we must first be honest with ourselves.  Everyone wants to believe that they are better than what we see around us.  But, we all make mistakes and just like my trip, we must choose to prepare ourselves. We prepare ourselves by avoiding situations that may tempt us, fortifying our values and taking the high road.  When you look back on your actions, be honest with yourself and choose to learn from your experiences.

And by the way, if you ever get the chance to hike the Appalachian Trail, I would highly recommend the Roan Mountain section.

-Gary Burden-

Posted in Landscape Design.