Everyone’s heard that we’re supposed to enjoy the journey, not the destination. It’s trite to repeat it, but somehow that phrase has never done it for me. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, or maybe the words just don’t sound right in my brain. But the sentiment is 100% crucial for growing in positive direction. For me, it’s much more useful to think of it in terms of practice and results. Love the practice, not the result.
My biggest experience with this recently is with yoga. Yoga is nothing but practice. That’s all there is. No goal. Let’s face it, we’re probably not making it to samadhi/nirvana/ultimate reality in this lifetime. Maybe it’s cool to be able to do a handstand or put your foot behind your head, but yoga isn’t the fastest way to achieve those goals either. It’s a way to slowly improve the mind and the body, and the pleasure is in the daily experience of the action.
The same is true of art, writing, anything creative. If I ever think about painting in terms of “I need to paint something awesome that people are going to love and put in a museum and make me rich,” I’m never going to paint. I’ll be stymied with fear of failure, because not reaching that goal would be failure if that was my only reason for doing it. Instead, I sit down to paint because I love the feeling of painting. The brush moving over canvas, leaving a bright color in its wake. Sometimes it evens ends up being a piece I like to look at when it’s done. Not always, but often enough, and more often the more I practice.
You’re probably saying, “Yeah right, but some of us have jobs” (that’s fair, but sometimes I do have a job, too). There are definitely times when we need to put the nose to the grindstone, get some hard work done just for the sake of finishing it. Doing your taxes, final exams, the presentation for a client meeting tomorrow. That’s all well and good, and we do need to find the energy to make it happen. But for the bigger things in life, the ones that take up most of our time and most of our emotional energy, we need to enjoy the daily practice. There’s no reason to try to be a professional musician if you hate to sit down with your instrument and hammer away at etudes for hours a day. If three hours of yoga practice everyday sounds like the most boring and/or exhausting thing ever, maybe yoga teacher is not the right direction for you. And it turns out that loving the practice does lead to being great at something. It takes time, and sneaks up on you while you’re busy focusing on the thing itself, not the goal.
What do you love to work on? Art? Writing? Programming? Some people love Python, and that is awesome, go for it. Sharing your knowledge with others? Helping people make ends meet? Brewing beer? What can you sit down to do, be fully present in the act of the practice, yet removed from some distant outcome? I believe this is one of the most important components in a life lived consciously. I certainly have a way to go to answer these questions, but it’s a journey worth being on.