Finding Joy in the Journey

We focus on the destination, but the process can be just as enjoyable.

Have you ever created a goal, reached it, become content, and then went looking for the next best thing? How quickly our lives adjust. We get our dream job and soon enough we start wondering when the promotion comes. We get accepted into school and then it becomes about getting good grades. We get a new house and then a few years later we start dreaming of the next dream house. We so quickly adjust our realities and constantly create “new normals.” This cycle we get into is called the hedonic treadmill.

We all have different goals for ourselves – different mountains to climb. Someone’s climb may be about sobriety; someone else’s may be about weight; someone else’s may be about finding a passion. Sometimes we may reach what we thought was the top of the mountain, but in reality, it was just the base of another one. If we were shown the top of the big mountain we had to climb all at once, we would be intimidated. So instead, we have smaller mountains that we’re given to climb with rest areas in between. As Iyanla Vanzant has said, there are curves in the road because if you were shown how long of a stretch you have left, you’d be intimated and never make it. Instead, there are curves that only show a little bit of the road at a time so we can just focus on that piece.

It’s easy to think that we’ve “made it” to the top of the mountain, but in reality, we just got to a plateau or a curve that we didn’t see from the perspective we were at. Our journey spans as long as we live and if we think we’ve made it, we may be limiting ourselves. As T.D. Jakes has said:

“Don’t stop at where you are as if it were the destination, when in fact, in reality, it may be the transportation that brings you into that thing you were created to do.”

That is why some of us feel like we’re never happy. We tend to want to see things as a destination because it provides us a sense of certainty, finality, and accomplishment – as it should. However, there is another piece that often gets lost, which is that we’re always in a state of change. There is no singular destination, but multiple ones. It’s not about wanting more, but being present for where we are. It’s never about the better job, more kids, a relationship, because the truth is there will always be something more.

The question becomes how do we balance being content and grateful where we are, but also being OK striving for something greater? As Oprah Winfrey once said:

“I got so focused on the difficulty of the climb that I lost sight of being grateful for simply having a mountain to climb.”

It’s great to have new goals, but if we’re always looking for the next best thing, jumping from place to place, without taking time to appreciate the views on the climb, it won’t matter where we are because we’re taking our current feelings to our new destination.

It’s important to pause and look around and take in how far we’ve come. Think about driving up a mountain. When we start driving up the mountain, we’re hyper-focused ahead of us, driving in a zigzag formation following the road. But if we pause after 5 minutes and (safely) look over our shoulder, we will realize how far we’ve come up the mountain. It is so easy to get focused on the road ahead of us that we don’t take time to look around. It’s important to take those moments.

I’ll leave you with a quote by Jon Bon Jovi:

“Any time that you think you’ve hit the top of the mountain, the truth of the matter is you’ve just reached another mountain. And it’s there to climb all over again.”

Begin to think about where you are in your climb. Have you reached the top of one mountain and enjoying the view or prepping for the next climb? Maybe you’re in the middle of your climb and struggling to make it through. Wherever you are, that is OK. You can only get to the top one step at a time. Just focus on what the next best step is for yourself.



This article was written by Dr. Rubin Khoddam who is a Clinical Psychologist currently working in private practice in Los Angeles, CA as well as at the West Los Angeles VA as the Team Lead in the residential rehabilitation program for individuals dealing with issues related to substance use and homelessness. 

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