It’s been a while since my last post I know… I guess I’ve been up to much and yet feel like I’ve not done much – sound familiar? Anyway, here I am, writing a post because of a question I have on my mind.
So I have this cleaning routine I follow that breaks down house chores into daily tasks so that by the time the weekend arrives, our home is spotless. Funnily enough, I enjoy this time and use it to listen to something that builds me up, gets me thinking, and asking questions, like the one I asked myself this morning – “Am I really Enjoying the Journey?” Towards the end of this blog, I have penned down 7 Things that I am going to do to be present, which I think is the start of enjoying life’s journey.
From my previous posts, you will know that I have taken an intentional sabbatical. A lot of my time has been devoted to reflection, asking questions, allowing myself to be with no pressure. This is one of the questions that keeps popping up.
There’s a quote from a movie that has stuck with me (I can’t remember the name of the movie). Any way it goes along the lines of a couple whose relationship is on the rocks and the day that the guy moves out, he says to his girlfriend “Why don’t you allow yourself to be happy?” To me, this question was profound and relevant and implied that she was sabotaging her own happiness and that she has the option to give herself permission to be happy. This has been something I often reflect on – am I allowing myself to be happy. Something a bit deeper is how do you allow yourself to be happy? Right now I don’t really have the answer, but I am sure it has something to do with living in the moment. From ancient to modern texts, religious practices, and beliefs the common theme is being present. More often than not this is coupled with inner peace.
And could it be that being in the moment is where we allow ourselves to truly enjoy the journey? Constantly pinning your happiness on a future outcome or event means that you are pushing towards a destination and your focus is neither on the now or on the road to the destination.
Every day I try to practically bring myself into the moment, even if it is a fleeting moment – like driving to a destination, I often remind myself to pause and take in my surroundings. The same with going to the gym, I try to focus on what I am doing at that moment – running on the treadmill, cycling, reading, or taking a shower. Yes, you read correctly, I like to read my Kindle when I cycle at the gym. A lot of people say that they could never read and exercise at the same time, yet they are constantly on their phones while exercising.
The point is that it takes a conscious effort, but I figure that if I can build a habit of being practical about enjoying the journey, it will make me more conscious about enjoying life’s journey which to me is a more spiritual experience.
But my question was whether I was enjoying the journey – you see I am aware of the journey, but am I really enjoying it? You can be stuck in a traffic jam, that’s part of the journey, but do you make a decision to enjoy it? You can’t do much about being stuck in the traffic, but I guess you can give yourself permission to enjoy the moment – Phone a friend, turn on some music. You get my drift.
As I am writing this, it’s helping me to work through the question and do some reading on “how to” instead of just the benefits of enjoying the journey. I always say enjoy the journey, but never really delve into the actual how!
I stumbled on Grace’s blog on Life Chief Nation where she shares some great advice on enjoying the journey and not just the destination. She asks her readers to think back on one of their biggest accomplishments and rightfully points out that on reflection you think about the journey to achieving that accomplishment – the time, the effort, and hard work. That alone shows how important the journey is and why it should be enjoyed. As she says: “once you’ve accomplished the goal, the journey is what you will look back on, not the goal itself.”
Here’s an interesting one, develop patience. Profound isn’t it? In today’s world, the rush of instant gratification and chasing the next best thing has actually robbed us of our joy and come to think of it, lies at the root of not enjoying the journey and also makes achieving a goal an anti-climax as we already have our sights set on the next thing.
Take dating for example – apps and the internet have made things so easy to find that perfect match, or have they?
From what I can see and have experienced in my dating days (I am now happily married!), you are served with an endless menu of opportunities that are constantly refreshing. Fear of missing out on someone better has made the concept of “getting to know one another” obsolete. So we try to short circuit the journey with a constant nagging that there could be someone better – generally, you are not even present on a date. Even I was guilty of this, and it is exhausting yet addictive at the same time. It’s designed to be a game – tag and release. I know that many people do meet online, get married, and live happily ever after – I wonder if that is the rule rather than the exception? I have not delved into this. I am sure you get my point though.
Developing patience is a way to enjoy the present and the journey – removing the sense of urgency. You know what the ultimate goal is, but setting smaller, achievable goals give you a sense of accomplishment and achievement along the way. I am a firm believer in accomplishment feedback and celebrating the small wins.
For example, I lost over 26 kilograms by changing my habits in small and sustainable ways. For example, we used to eat junk food more often than not. So instead of upsizing a meal, I would rather order a regular meal and water. I did not enjoy the water, and overindulged on caffeine and sugar – 7 cups a day was normal going. I decided to cut out sugar in my coffee and have a glass of water with every cup of coffee. The result was less coffee and more water. Slowly I started enjoying my water, and today I drink about 3 liters of water every day, and more if I go to the gym. I also started going to the gym – something I had tried and given up on several times. Why did I give up? Because I listened to everyone telling me that I should be going to the gym 5 times a week. This time I embraced the attitude that even if I go to the gym once a week, it was once more that I would have gone. I also found things that I would look forward to as an incentive – like the shower after the workout. This got me in the door. Again I started frequenting the gym more often and started enjoying it. Soon I dropped a pants size, then another and I had to buy new clothes. It felt good, and this is the accomplishment feedback I was talking about.
My goal was to lose weight – no specific number in mind. The focus was more on the journey, without even realising it. In that instance, I guess it was the right thing to do. I never cut myself up, or put undue pressure on myself, and yes it took discipline. There were no fad diets or anything of that nature – I don’t think these are sustainable. It was merely making small tweaks that later replaced bad habits with good ones. I have kept the weight off for over ten years now.
It’s interesting, as I reflect while writing this blog, how I have applied this principle throughout my life, and yet I feel that I needed to ask this question as if I don’t know the how. Maybe it’s because a lot of these accomplishments were physical, and now I am focusing on embracing life’s journey, which is more spiritual, and though the principles are relevant what is the goal? To enjoy life’s journey? To live in the moment? To be at peace? Can those be goals?
I think you can set making the journey enjoyable as a goal!
At least asking the questions is important – they say the mind works best in the presence of a question.
Here are some challenges for myself right now, instead of answering the questions –
- Practice mindfulness – research and find something that resonates with me.
- Constantly remind myself to be in the moment – not matter how brief the moment is. I am sure I could start forming a good habit that comes naturally by being intentional.
- Meditate – this is difficult with my wandering mind, but I know guided meditations work for me. So do more of this.
- Spend more time in prayer and meditating on a scripture – I’ve done a lot of this in 2021, and enjoy it.
- Go for walks and look up, listen, smell and touch – connecting with nature.
- Find different and fun ways of doing things that are mundane or second nature.
- Make time for doing my daily notes – something I do when I am stressed, but should do it more often first thing in the morning to declutter my brain and set me up for a great day. I read about this in The Artist’s Way, a great book I would recommend.