“Happiness is a direction, not a place”- Sydney Harris.
We often get so caught up chasing after goals or our dreams that we forget that real happiness can be found in the journey. You may think that you will be happy once you get the promotion you have wanted for so long, or you will be happy once you fulfil your lifelong dream of travelling the world. But the truth is that happiness usually lies in the journey and not just the outcome. With each dream, you have fulfilled or each goal you have accomplished, you may well continue to push the goalpost further and further away or continue to set further goals and work towards additional dreams.
As it turns out, no dream or goal is likely to make us happy forever. You may use your dreams and goals to motivate you, but don’t let your dreams get in the way of enjoying the journey of life to the fullest. Remember that you can give it your best shot but can’t always totally control the outcome. So, don’t let your happiness depend upon the outcome; try to make the most of the present moments – those that make up your actual life.
Once you do so, you will begin seeing things differently. You would start looking at the journey as an opportunity to learn rather than as a series of challenging landscapes you have to cross for your dreams to come true, appreciate what life throws at you because it will allow you to develop and grow stronger. You will stop looking for shortcuts to success and respect the progress you have made so far.
Here today are seven ways to enjoy life’s journey without missing it and getting bogged down with a destination so many get consumed with.
- Be grateful for the present moment.
Practising gratitude for all you have can make you see how lucky, privileged, and abundant you are. Don’t associate being grateful with settling for what you have. You can be grateful for what you have and still strive for more of your dreams to come true. Being grateful for what you have will allow you to enjoy the journey rather than depend on the destination as your only source of happiness.
Therefore, instead of being upset and sad that your business is not necessarily taking off, be grateful that you have accomplished your lifelong dream of running a business of your own. Be positive; hopefully, you will bounce back from this setback stronger. Don’t take anything for granted, and practice gratitude every day. Try listing down the things you have and the things you are grateful for every day. This list will remind you about the good that has befallen you, and this practice will keep negative thoughts at bay and make you much more optimistic.
You have so much to be grateful for. You are beautiful, strong, healthy, and resilient. Not only will being more grateful serve as a mood booster, but it will also positively affect your mental and physical well-being and allow you to enjoy the journey of life in a much better way.
- Identify how you want to feel.
You think you will be happy once you buy your dream house. This likely means that it is not the house you are after; it is the happiness it brings you that you want. You may not necessarily want a lot of money ; rather, you want to feel the freedom and confidence that comes with it.
You may not want the big promotion; you may want the respect and appreciation that comes with it. It is how certain achievements make you feel that you are usually striving for, not the things themselves. So do more things that make you feel respected, worthy, and happy. If you spend more of your life feeling how you want to feel when you reach the destination, you will be able to enjoy your life much more. If you have no clue how you can identify the way you want to feel, don’t worry.
On a daily basis, list two to three feelings that you want to feel. It can be happy, appreciated, respected, peaceful, satisfied, or joyful, for example. Then on the same piece of paper, write how you can create a situation that makes you feel that way right now instead of waiting to get to the destination. Then make those feelings happen. Schedule activities that would make you feel the way you want.
- Know that we spend all our time on the journey
We are always on the journey. We accomplish a dream, reach the destination, and then move on to the next journey. So, it naturally makes sense to enjoy the journey where you spend most of your time. Once you realise that it is the journey on which you spend most of your time, you will begin to enjoy your life much more. An example of holidays is relevant here. Most of us enjoy the holidays before Christmas more than Christmas itself. So, think of your journey as the holidays before Christmas and start enjoying it right now.
- Set milestones for yourself
While setting goals for yourself, make sure you break them into smaller milestones to make your journey more doable and uplifting. You can use the SMART goal criteria to plan and achieve your goals. SMART is a mnemonic acronym that George Doran first proposed. S stands for specific, M for measurable, A for achievable, R for realistic, and T for time-bound (though I prefer ‘Trackable’).
Setting goals using this criterion would allow you to get better results. Breaking down your ultimate goal into smaller goals would help you acknowledge the real progress you have made. It would motivate you and make you want to continue the journey. You will realise that you are constantly learning and making progress, which will help you keep going. Not doing so can make you feel demotivated compared to breaking down your ultimate goal into smaller milestones.
Seeing that you have spent this much time and money but have not achieved your goal can make you despair. So, set realistic and achievable goals for yourself that make you want to continue the journey and make it more joyful. Then enjoy the steps you take to get there and celebrate your progress along the way.
- Establish a routine for yourself
Creating a routine for yourself makes you closer to accomplishing your goal. Thus, in a way, it routinely makes you feel happier. On the other hand, not having a routine can make you feel the opposite of happy. It can cause you a great deal of stress and anxiety, hampering your productivity. According to Rachel Goldman, a licensed psychologist in NYC specialising in health and wellness, “when people don’t have a routine or structure to their day, it can cause increased stress and anxiety, as well as overwhelming feelings, lack of concentration, and focus.
” The word “routine” can be scary for some people as they feel it robs away their freedom. If you are one of those people, our advice is to see routine as a way of making your life more organised and productive. Break away from the stereotypes and stop thinking of having a routine as a cool thing, eliminating spontaneity and surprise from life. Not having a routine can increase the feelings of distress.
So, if you want to create a routine for yourself, Dr Goldman’s advice is that “a good place to start with creating a new routine is to set wake-up and bedtimes, as well as mean and activity times.” Hopefully, a routine will add more structure to your destination and make your journey more productive and satisfying for you. Read this brilliant article for more on this topic: Why you need routine in your life.
- Don’t focus on what you don’t have.
It is only human to make unhealthy comparisons and be hard on ourselves for things we don’t have. But just because our brains normally work this way doesn’t mean we have to stay this way. Good news! Science has discovered that we can re-grow our brain cells and change the structure and function of our brains by changing how we think. This means we don’t always have to be victims of unfair comparisons. It is important to realise that comparing yourself with others can negatively affect your mental wellbeing. It robs you of all the joy and causes you unhappiness. Comparing yourself with others is a trap. It makes you feel unsatisfied with life and overcomplicates your life. Read this article for more on this topic: Stop Comparing Yourself to Others.
Moreover, when you compare yourself with others, you tend to feel insecure about your accomplishments in life. This leads to misery, jealousy, and self-destructive behaviour. Don’t fall into this rabbit hole. You can easily put an end to this habit by focusing on things you do have. When you focus on the things you do have, you feel motivated, empowered, and confident. You start believing in yourself and become more resilient. It gives you the courage to bounce back from any setback that you might experience in your journey.
Moreover, it changes your outlook on life. You become more positive, which helps you enjoy the journey of life. So if you feel that you haven’t featured in a lot of films, unlike all the other popular actors, remind yourself of your acting skills. Doing so will motivate you since you will know it is just a matter of time before you get your big role.
A good way to enjoy the journey on your own instead of missing out on it because of your destination is to unplug now and then. Unplugging ourselves from technology and work can help us get more clarity in life. Although it is good to have goals to focus on, it is important to realise that the burnout culture is extremely detrimental to our health. It causes physical and mental stress and also manipulates us into thinking that our destination is our happiness, robbing us of our happiness and freedom.
Unplugging allows us to live in the present moment and savour it. It makes us appreciate the present and embrace that there are things beyond our control. We have a few tips for you if you struggle with work-life balance and find it hard to unplug. Don’t answer any work-related calls or emails after working hours. You can set up technology-free zones. For example, no phone or gadget in the dining room or bedroom.
Practice mindfulness. The mindfulness exercise aims to focus and live in the present moment and understand your present feelings without self-judgment. Mindfulness practices such as breathing exercises, meditation, and guided imagery are scientifically proven to fight anxiety, help reduce stress and relax the body and mind. Simple mindfulness practice can make a big difference in how you see yourself and your life. Hopefully, learning how to unplug will help divert your focus from the endgame to the journey.
The journey of life is one of the most beautiful things life has to offer. So, don’t miss it! Don’t second guess yourself and change your path just because you have received a few minor setbacks. And don’t waste your journey by searching exclusively for happiness in the outcome.
Although changing your concept of happiness is hard, it is not impossible. Remember that your destination will be so much more joyful if you enjoyed the journey that helped you reach this destination in our experience of setting milestones for ourselves, reminding ourselves that we spend most of our time on the journey, and being grateful for where we are works best when trying to learn how to enjoy the journey. All we have is right now. Life is short, so enjoy the journey for as long as it lasts. Stop seeing your destination as an accomplishment of a goal and let your destination be a surprise to you after a joyful and adventurous journey. And who knows? Maybe the destination we get to is a much better one than we imagined for ourselves.
It would only be right to end this article with a quote by Greg Anderson, “focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.”
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