We’ve all heard the saying that life is a journey, not a contest. Then one day you wake up and realize you’re…thirty. Yeah, I’m talking about me. And I realize how young and beautiful that is. But still, think of all those lists people talk about writing for themselves— all the dreams they hope come true by the time they reach a certain age: “By the time I’m thirty (or forty, fifty, sixty), I’ll…” Luckily I never made one of those lists, but I still didn’t imagine myself where I am now.
I’m not sure where or who I thought I’d be but it’s easy to become disappointed— to shake our fists and say, “but I haven’t climbed Mount Kilimanjaro yet!” or “I haven’t done this and this and this. Everyone else is doing this and this and this!” But I also didn’t think I’d be lucky enough to be teaching yoga and have two novels already under my belt.
The problem is we are so focused on goals that we forget to live in the moment. We don’t even know what live in the moment means (just try to sit and meditate, hellooo!). But what is the goal anyway? Really, what’s the end game? Life keeps going until it runs out, do we really want to rush ahead and beat everyone?
I remember in high school art class, a student once commented that she couldn’t wait to finish her project already. The teacher looked at her, appalled, and said, “why? I hate finishing, the fun is in the doing it.”
Likewise, I once read a comment by a struggling writer who said maybe his destiny is never to be published, never to share his writing beyond himself or his immediate circle, and maybe that was just as beautiful and valuable. Writing, he said, has intrinsic value.
Just like when we practice yoga— letting go of what we think the pose should be and simply being aware of our breath has value in and of itself (being aware of being alive is pretty awesome, isn’t it?)
The point is the journey, not the end goal. Not that goals are bad, I have tons of them. But maybe goals are only fun because of the process. In doing it. In living it.
Lastly, I did an exercise recently where I had to look back on all my happy memories and remember what I was thinking and feeling about the world that made me happy. It’s a great exercise, by the way (thanks Mastin Kipp!) I recalled the feeling of magic and wonder at the universe, how big and full of possibility the world seemed, how precious and achingly fragile life appeared.
This year, I want more of that. I don’t want to numb out and focus only on goals.
So here’s to remembering that life is a journey, not a contest.
My birthday wish for you is to stop competing with yourself and/or everyone else (just for a moment!) and simply enjoy the magical journey of being alive.