I am a confirmed daydreamer. I love imagining all the possibilities out there that the future might hold: things to learn, projects to try, places to see. Books to read. 😉 No one can ever accuse me of not thinking about what I might want from my life.
All my daydreams usually end up as lists somewhere, which is a good thing. Otherwise I would likely spend my days in a sparkly cloud of What Ifs? and never get around to actually accomplishing any of my pretty ideas.
Full disclosure: I’ve never met a goal-setting opportunity I didn’t love.
I make goals at New Year’s. I have made and re-made my Bucket List a dozen times. I make Before-I-Turn-(fill in age here) Goals. I make reading goals; I make travel goals; I make daily habits goals.
I love getting out the Map of Life and looking at all the exciting possible destinations, then choosing the ones that seem right for me at the moment.
Goals are a good thing. Necessary, even. I will argue all day that if you don’t HAVE a few goals, then you are wandering around a bit aimlessly in your own life.
Which might sound footloose and fancy-free.
But we all have things we want from our lives: habits we want to adopt or release, secret dreams we wish to see come true one day, challenges we envision taking on. The only way to get to the very end of our life’s journey without regrets is to bring those things into the light and start planning a roadtrip.
Athletes are a super example of this mindset. All those impressive competitors we just watched skate, ski and sled in the recent Olympics? They know exactly what they want to accomplish.
And they map out exactly how they are going to get there: diet, training, recovery…they don’t leave anything to chance. And their focus produces results.
Now a gold medal isn’t anything I dream about…unless there is one for reading, maybe?
But anyone who has any kind of success in this lifetime, whether it is to be a kinder person or build a business or to compete in the Olympics, started with a destination and a plan to travel there.
So goals are good!
We all need to have a destination in mind. It gives us the motivation to get up and get going!
Where we get into trouble is when we become so hyper-focused on reaching that goal that we assign all the joy and enjoyment to the destination.
We’ve all travelled with someone who was so intent on getting where they were going that they made everyone else m-i-s-e-r-a-b-l-e on the trip. Grudging bathroom breaks. Zero detours. ‘We’ll eat when we get there.’
Even if your destination is Wally World, this kind of traveling is no fun for anyone.
Achieving our goals feels really great. That moment when you hit that goal weight on the scale, or get that degree, or juggle those eight flaming swords without dropping one…Reaching the destination we have mapped out for ourselves is worthy of a confetti cannon!
However, the ‘Achievement High’ is temporary. All to soon we are getting the map back out to choose another destination, another goal.
Creating goals is important. Choosing where we want to go and making the travel plans is fun. And arriving there after a long trip deserves a celebration.
But the truth is we spend most of our time in life on the road.
If we only view the end of the trip as the place where we ‘arrive’ at joy, then we spend an awful lot of time waiting around to be joyful.
Here’s the thing, friends.
We claim to understand the idea of ‘finding joy in the journey’, but we (and I mean me) have trouble when it comes to applying that concept to our actual lives.
When I think my progress is too slow (because it is taking me two months to lose five pounds), I’m not finding joy in the journey.
When I hit a setback or a roadblock and just want to give up (because learning something new is hard), I’m not finding joy in the journey.
When I view my struggling as failing (because I am having trouble juggling some difficult responsibilities), I’m not finding joy in the journey.
When I beat myself up for making a mistake (because I am still learning), I’m not finding joy in the journey.
You fill in the blanks with your own challenges. Personally, I tend to view any unexpected detour, rest stop, or flat tire along the way as complete and catastrophic engine failure.
I’m not suggesting that we should always be happy about every setback. Sometimes setbacks are as devastating as a ten car pileup. And you may have to make some changes in your journey. Disappointment, grief, pain are all real. Go ahead and feel them. But then check the story you are telling yourself about what they are going to mean.
Nobody’s trip is without its detours and roadblocks. Hear me: Nobody’s.
Sometimes we all get lost for a bit. Sometimes you have to drive around on some one-way streets to find your way forward again.
Sometimes you have to stop for gas. And snacks. I usually have to stop to take a nap.
Sometimes you make a wrong turn and end up somewhere unexpected and really cool. You get to see the World’s Largest Ball of Twine. Sometimes you have to pull off to the side of the road until the rain clears up.
Eventually we all have to get back on the road and keep driving on.
What makes the difference between an enjoyable trip and a miserable one is what kind of traveler we choose to be.
We all spend most of our lives on a journey to somewhere.
Please don’t save all your joy for the end goal that you are trying to reach and refuse to find any of that joy in your trip along the way.
Bring a book. Play car bingo. Turn the radio up really loud. Put the windows down and let the wind blow in your hair. Stop to take some photos.
And don’t be so hard on yourself when you need to stop for a bathroom break or get a flat tire. You’re not the only one. Take that opportunity to check out the scenery.
Life IS a journey. Choosing a destination is what helps motivate us and makes things interesting. But let’s not forget how much joy there is to find on the trip itself, even when we have to take the long way around.
Let’s choose to be more joyful travelers.