Trusting the Process and Enjoying the Journey

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“The clouds above us join and separate, the breeze in the courtyard leaves and returns. Life is like that, so why not relax? Who can stop us from celebrating?”

–Benjamin Hoff

What’s the Rush?

Is it just me or does it seem like the more we have, the more we want? The more things we acquire and the easier things get for us, the more discontent we become. It’s like we’re always looking for the next best thing and living for tomorrow—when we’ll finally have it all—instead of living in today. The more spoiled we become as a society with technology and our cushy lifestyles, the more we complain. We dream about more, more, more, and then some more. Just as comedian Louis CK says, “Everything is amazing and nobody is happy.”

At a recent charity event, I met a financial advisor who deals with some pretty big time multimillionaire clients. He said that for his clients, the money is never enough; for them, making money is like a race with no finish line. They aren’t content, always looking to make more money. None of them ever seem to say, “I have enough money now, thank you.”

No one—not even multimillionaires—seems to know how to relax anymore and just enjoy the present moment. After all, it’s nearly impossible to be present when you’re in a hurry to catch the next best thing. It’s like climbing Mount Everest, reaching the top, and then doing it over and over again immediately after without ever enjoying the view. It makes me tired just thinking about it. Everyone’s rushing to get to the top, all the while failing to realize that the “top” is just a mindset; it can be limitless if you let it be. Instead, people are in a great big hurry to get nowhere in particular. It’s like they’re running on a treadmill, trying to get to where they want to go and convincing themselves that they’ll only have worth when they reach that next “level”. Everyone wants to save time getting to the top, but all they end up doing is wasting it. In the classic book Walden, Henry David Thoreau stated: “Why should we live with such hurry and waste of life? We are determined to be starved before we are hungry. Men say that a stitch in time saves nine, and so they take a thousand stitches to-day to save nine tomorrow.”

Enjoy the Process

“The honey doesn’t taste so good once it is being eaten. The goal doesn’t mean so much once it is reached; the reward is not so rewarding once it is given.”

–Pooh, in The Tao of Pooh

I recently re-read The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff; this short book uses Winnie-the Pooh to explain the wisdom of Taoism. In the book, Hoff explains how opened Christmas presents aren’t as much fun as the process of thinking about opening them. This is pretty true, isn’t it? Every year it’s the same thing: The anticipation of Christmas is always a lot more exciting than Christmas itself, when it actually arrives. That’s the same thing that happens with reaching a goal. Once we reach the goal, we don’t tend to enjoy it as much as we enjoyed anticipating it, and in no time at all, we’re on to the next one (and then the next one, and the next one . . .). Hoff offers the idea of trying to enjoy every minute of the time we spend during the process of working toward our goals. He explains, “…It is the process that makes us wise, happy, or whatever. If we do things in the wrong sort of way, it makes us miserable, angry, confused, and things like that.”

The trick is choosing the road that best suits you and finding happiness at as many stops along the way as you can. It’s important to pay attention to all the good things in our lives and enjoy them to the fullest in the here-and-now. That’ll be much more likely to bring about happiness than waiting for it to arrive after the goal is complete.

Happiness isn’t in trying to achieve goals; it’s in knowing that the process, not the outcome, is what’s most important, and that process shouldn’t be rushed. Finding happiness means taking the time to enjoy what’s around us today, appreciating that we’re alive, that today is all we have, and that the process is what really matters. Once you finally reach your goal, take time to breathe the fresh air, celebrate, and treat yourself to a pat on the back (or something shiny). However you decide to celebrate, know that you deserve to, at least, participate in enjoying your accomplishments.

Know You Have Value

No matter how worthwhile we are, it sometimes takes us a while to recognize our own value. I think sometimes we make ourselves believe we are in a rush because we try to compete against other people. People who truly believe in themselves stop comparing themselves to other people. Growing up in Miami, I saw a lot of people in a rush to gain fame and fortune. They want to buy happiness and feel superior, but what they don’t realize is that they can be happy and have value without doing that.

You have to first be appreciative of who you are by creating a solid sense of self apart from external things, seeing your worth in the process of life instead of at the end of some goal. Some of us have gotten accustomed to looking at the bad and constantly complaining about our lives. That gives us motivation to look for more, instead of seeing the value in what we already have, and it removes the option of being happy with our lives in the now. That’s especially easy to do when you don’t take ownership of your life. Most psychology theories teach us to look at pathology and what’s going wrong in people’s lives. It isn’t surprising, therefore, that we often take on the same perspective for ourselves.

In order to make a change, you have to train yourself to look at the unique, enjoyable moments you overlook as if they don’t mean anything—like the fact that you’re alive and breathing! You have to remember how special and fortunate you are. When you know this to be true, you’ll want to experience life and enjoy the process. You’re unique, and your life has meaning. No matter who you are, you have something to be grateful for; you have something to offer other than how many goals you reach. You have to believe that and honor yourself, your dreams, and who you are.

You are a miracle, so start acting like it. Time passes quickly, and you only have this one life to live; nothing is worth you wasting that. I remind myself this whenever I have my head in the clouds or find myself trying to rush to complete something. We all deserve to experience this life the way we are in this moment, with our full essence and authenticity. I found a quote from an unknown author that fits perfectly with what I’m saying: “Breathe, my friend, you are not old. You are young, you are not a mess, you are normal. Extraordinary, perhaps. In the blink of an eye your life will change. And it will continue to change for decades to come. Enjoy it. Embrace it…be grateful for the ride. You are not old. You are young. And faith will get you everywhere. Just you wait.”

Talk soon,

Dr. Ilene

Article edited by Dr. Denise Fournier



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