So you’re striving. You’re winning at things. Maybe you’re on track to get that promotion or corner office. Maybe you hit your goal of deadlifting three plates a side (315 lbs) or losing 20 pounds. Maybe all that positive energy and leadership is finally leading to a family or sex life you have wanted all this time. Things should be perfect right? Or do you suffer from the What Nows?
What happens now that your goal is reached? Most likely setting some new goal to strive toward. At some point though, where do you go from there? Goal hopping from one great one to another isn’t a prescription for happiness. Goals are good. They help guide us to be better than who we were yesterday, but all too often the destination is so important that we blow through the process with minimal enjoyment.
In reality, the Journey IS the Destination, and is what makes us who we are.
In my mid- to late-20’s I was striving to kick ass at triathlons. I’m a Type A person, and didn’t just want to finish, but wanted to finish toward the front end of the pack. And not just any ole sprint triathlon, but an Ironman (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run). Even before I had done my first short race, I knew I wanted to be competitive at the long distance races. Destination/goal was set early, but is such a large one it took a long time to get there. I knew that Day 1, so I set a plan that by my second season (year 2 of triathlons) I would be finishing my first Ironman in a competitive time. Unlike many others who were just checking off workout boxes on their way to the race, I made a concerted effort to enjoy every step of the process. That meant being present in my basic swim lessons (I didn’t know how to swim when I started). It meant giving thanks for having a healthy body that could climb steep hills on my bike rides. It meant finding ways to share my journey with other friends, including my wife, who joined me on various runs and bikes and smaller races. Gratitude and being present were keys. I absolutely LOVED the journey to becoming an Ironman. And I visualized. I raced that day dozens of times in my head, and to me, race day was anticlimactic. Everything went exactly as I envisioned, and I finished where I expected (right near the top), just missing a World Championship qualification (which I accomplished the following year – but I ended up not going, it was the journey to qualifying that lit my fire, not the destination –in this case Hawaii – itself). In my heart of hearts, the destination didn’t matter to me except as an afterthought, but the journey there was super rewarding.
Unfortunately, those strivers and goal setters who keep hitting milestone after milestone are moving so fast or pushing for success they sometimes don’t find that much happiness in the journey itself.
It is the big wins that give short term shot in the arm of being validated. Meanwhile, the happiest among us are not worrying about validation. Of filling in some hole in our hearts with accomplishments or achievements. Every day of life is an accomplishment. Every day on this planet is a chance for achievement. To enjoy the fresh air and life energy of the world.
Take for example those that choose to thru hike a major trail. The destination is clear – 1,000 miles away is a trail marker with the terminus. But are these people doing it for the destination? Or is it for the journey (both within and outside) that makes it worthwhile? You know the answer to that.
It is the journey that makes us strong. It is the journey that lets us touch momentary enlightenment. It is the journey (with others) that binds us to one another and creates strong relationships.
The best example of enjoying the journey is with our kids. Raise your hand if you ever wished your kids were a different age so things would be “easier.” Everyone’s hand is probably raised, I know mine is. Both my kids are now half-way through childhood. Certain times have been very challenging, and I’ve thought “if only they were older, then we could do X together,” or “I wish they wouldn’t be so needy and I could do more things I want to do.” Or “How the heck do babies shit up their back all the way to their neck?” You know, stuff like that where you’re tired of parenting that day. Or even looking ahead to undivided time with just my wife, without the mess that comes with kids. But every time I feel like this I call a timeout and reflect on the journey and how they are only this wonderful age once. That the loudness and clutter is temporary, as is the love and joy and innocence that kids bring to a life underfoot. It is the journey – of teaching and raising quality humans and loving the brief time we have all together in the same house.
My advice to everyone is to stay present in the moment. To cherish those failed attempts along the way as we work towards a destination that often changes anyway. If not, you’ll miss out on many beautiful and joyful moments as you grind through to that happiness destination that will never fully make you happy. Find happiness instead in daily moments along the journey. Otherwise all we have as we look back is a life reduced to a series of bullet points:
- Go to school
- Graduate college
- Get a career
- Get married
- Buy a house
- Have kids
- Get promoted
- Personal Accomplishments
It’s really the path between the destinations that define us. Try your best to remember the journey should feel the way you want the destination to feel – and fine bliss along the path.
Now for some Journey: