I sympathize deeply with anyone who wants to punch purveyors of wisdom such as “It’s not about the destination … it’s about the journey.” And yet this line is so, so true: you won’t be happy once you get there if you were never happy along the way.
I’ve come to realize how much I’ve failed to apply this to my own life over the years. While living happily and well, I have focused too much on getting to a final goal for reasons that don’t really reflect who I am: I want to publish the book to show I can do it, I want to be an artist to impress people, I want to have the nice house and good husband and pretty children to dress up my ego.
Don’t get me wrong, I want all these things for the right reason too. I’m deeply passionate about the books I write but have yet to publish; I get lost in art and it calms my mind; I love my home, husband and child for who and what they are. And therein lies the rub: if I’m so busy waiting for the moment of arrival, I don’t enjoy the way there.
It seems counterintuitive, but realizing this has helped make my dreams less important. Or perhaps “important” isn’t the right word. They are less pressing, less overwhelming, and less demanding. I can wait with an easier mind, knowing they’ll come if I do a little bit at a time. In another anti-common sense twist, this helps me to be more focused, because instead of spending myself out in spasms of creative energy that don’t (shocker) accomplish my dream right then and there, I can work slowly toward smaller goals that build to bigger ones.
I’ve found three methods to be helpful when trying to stay on track toward a big dream.
1) Do a little bit each day, but then STOP. If you press yourself to do more simply because you’re on a roll, you will burn out sooner. That energy will last if this is an endeavor you’re really meant to undertake.
2) Don’t worry about spreading yourself too thin: if you want to do it, make time. As soon as it stops being fulfilling – truly fulfilling, not just when it starts demanding willpower or stick-to-it-ness – stop.
3) When it IS fulfilling, but hard, keep working at finding the methods you need to motivate yourself. Maybe it’s a walk as soon as you finish the hardest part of your project, or a chapter of the book you’re reading before you head into a long stretch of work. Maybe you constantly reframe (“I want this because it’s my dream”) or listen to really upbeat music. Whatever. Just do it: the hard patches will eventually become easy patches.
I’m no expert, and this isn’t rocket science. But it is true. And now I really want to make an analogy about streams leading to rivers leading to oceans of fulfillment, but I’m not going to. (I just did.)