Recently my family and I took a road trip to Chicago for vacation. While I definitely enjoyed seeing the sights of Chicago, what I enjoyed the most was the trip there and back. We took Route 66 for most of the journey and stopped multiple times along the way. My wife Shelley was in charge of the music and made sure to play a little something for everyone. We sang together, made jokes and just had a terrific time.
For me, the journey is what it’s all about, not the destination.
How often do you hear people say something to the following?
I’ll be happy when:
- When I get my dream job?
- When I get a raise?
- When I find a better relationship?
These people are always looking for the next best thing before they can experience happiness.
John Lennon said, “Life is what happens while you’re making other plans.” And I agree. If you’re always looking for something outside of you to make you feel happy, then you are guaranteed to miss the grand prize, life.
4 Steps to Enjoying the Journey of Life More
Abraham Lincoln said, “People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” While this may sound simple enough, the truth is a lot of times we fail to make this decision. Instead, we often just wish and hope that somehow today will turn out to be a good one.
We tell ourselves things like:
- Someday I would like to lose weight,
- Save money
- Start a business.
Even worse, we beat ourselves up over what we haven’t accomplished by saying I should. I should spend more time with the people I love, I should eat healthier, I should exercise more, and the list goes on and on. The problem with should is, it doesn’t motivate us into action, it just leaves us feeling guilty.
The Latin root of the word decide means to “cut off.” So to make a real decision, you must cut yourself off from all other options. You must eliminate the word should from your vocabulary and replace it with words that reflect initiative. Words like I am and I will.
The first step to enjoying the journey of life more is to make the decision that from this moment forward you will do everything within your personal power to make the most of whatever comes your way. Don’t become too focused on the finish line. Life is a journey, not a race. You’ll get where you are going one day at a time.
2. Be Fully Present
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle is a life changer. If you haven’t read this incredible book, I highly recommend you do. The reality of life is that all you have is what is right here, right now.
If you are in the dangerous habit of constantly projecting your thoughts into the future, then you are missing the present moment. While it is important to plan for the future, it is also wasteful to over plan for it, or constantly worry about it. Keep your thoughts in the present and enjoy where you are now.
One of the easiest ways to do this is by being grateful for every moment.
Wait. Every moment? Yes, every moment, even the painful ones. Sometimes these are the most important and defining experiences of our lives.
I remember one time when I was younger. My wife Shelley and I were both working on our master’s degrees but at different colleges. I had dropped her off at her campus and then driven 30 minutes across town to mine.
When her class was over, she was planning to take the bus back to where we had dropped her car off. At this point, she was going to pick up our kids from daycare before heading home. Once I got across town, I looked down and noticed she had left her car and house keys in my car.
With my class about to start and Shelley’s just about to end my stress began to rise. I barely had enough time to dash back across town to give her the keys before she got on the bus. (This was before we both had cell phones, so I couldn’t call her directly.)
Realizing that my stress was rising, I decided it was time to be proactive and use what I teach. So I asked myself a simple question, “What is great about this situation?”
After a few minutes of arguing with myself that nothing was great about it, I finally realized that what’s great is that I discovered her keys before she was released from class and had boarded the bus. That would have been much worse. She would have been stranded, and the kids would not have been picked up from daycare.
I also realized I was going to be able to steal a kiss from my beautiful wife again (after all, I was the hero.) On top of that, it was a gorgeous day so I would get to listen to my favorite music a little longer while enjoying the sunshine.
So yes, be grateful for every moment. There is always something valuable to learn.
3. Leave Earlier
Driving in today’s traffic is already stressful enough as it is. But go and add the stress of being late and watch your enjoyment level plummet. One of my favorite bumper stickers says, “I’m not in your hurry.”
By leaving earlier, you can give yourselves permission just to enjoy the journey. Use your commute time to listen to upbeat music, meditate on what’s great about life, or better yet to practice being in the now by observing the world around you.
The other day, my wife overheard a waitress apologize to a man for the delay in his order. His reply was priceless. “That’s okay,” he explained, “if I was in a hurry, I would have left the house earlier.” Maybe we should all take his advice and leave a little bit earlier.
4. Take Time for Yourself
This one is self-explanatory and I think we all know the importance of it, but many of us find ourselves ignoring it or putting our personal time off until everyone else is taken care of for the day. However, it is super crucial for you to find at least an hour for yourself.
I think the easiest way to find this hour is just to set your morning alarm back 60 minutes and then actually get out of bed at that time. Easier said than done I know, but this can be the best 60 minutes of your day. Not only does this give you some personal time, but it also sets the tone for the rest of the day.