“Enjoy the Journey” seems to be the mantra of every Instagram “life” coach out there. However, unlike their dubious claims that their essential oils will turn your life around or that their customized IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) plan will help you lose 10 lbs, the need to enjoy the journey is actually a valid and legitimate goal.
There is so much more to that phrase than a simple graphic with a hashtag, a fancy filter, and curly writing. Let’s now start to to look beyond the hashtag where we can begin to fall in love with our own personal process again.
Of course, like so many other things in life, while simple, it is not always easy to enjoy the journey, especially when you are stuck in a rut, injured, or hitting obstacle after obstacle. This is going to take practice, mindfulness and preparation.
I know from personal experience that when I have hit similar bumps in the road–be it a mental rut, an injury or not seeing the results I want–I can easily fall into a pattern of negative self-talk. But if I pause long enough to look up, take a beat and breath deeply, I remind myself that all of “This” is part of the big picture and all I have to do is enjoy the journey. In order to fully embrace “the process”, we must first let go of our expectations of what we will see on the road to success.
Why Embrace the Process?
Embracing the process and enjoying the journey are essential skills for any athlete aiming for sustainability and balance. Many athletes are focused on extrinsic goals like race times, beating a long-time rival , earning a belt buckle or a shiny medal. This is all fine, as long as it’s complemented by an equal and opposite set of intrinsic goals as well.
If we examine the timeline of our plans, those races and goals are only a small handful out of 365+ days that it takes to get where we want to go. In addition, we must examine what happens if and when we do meet our goals. Where do we go from there? What have we gained and are have our pursuits been enriching in the long run?
If our focus remains fixed on the extrinsic validators, we will find ourselves perpetually chasing quick highs (i.e. winning) versus experiencing authentic joy or gratitude. This is why it is so important to keep our focus on the whole journey. After all, it can be easy to lose sight of the forest if our sights our constantly fixed on a few individual trees.
It is the other 364+ days before our key events and 364+ days proceeding that really matter; these are the days and workouts that make us not just athletes but whole people. It’s the journey that molds us, chews us up and reforges us. Only then, newly cast, are we equipped to reach out and seize our goals. Only then are we we strong enough–mind, body and soul–to take the heat of the battle.
So How Do We Fully Enjoy the Journey?
So let’s go beyond the hashtag.
As I said, enjoying the process is hard. Why? Because the process is usually hard, but hopefully I can make it a bit easier with a few simple tips (not easy, just simple).
The first tip is to become a curious athlete.
Instead of just saying “I want” these results, say “I wonder….”
….what it feels like to run this pace or faster.
…what will my body do when….
…how will my body respond if I make this change
….how strong can my body get.
…what will I look like then.
….what will I feel like after…
…how will my training be affected if I do this instead…
..if I can do this, I wonder if I can do this….
These above questions allow you to imagine the infinite possibilities of what is to come. Instead of dreading them or forgetting about them, you get excited about them and get excited about your potential as an athlete and person.
With this new found open mindedness, we open ourselves up to the possibility that there is more then one way to attain our goals and beyond. Our goals are not endpoints; they are just another beginning and who knows where they will take you.
By adding in the curiosity factor, we refocus our minds on the journey and what could happen rather than focusing on finishing a race, picking up a finisher medal and returning to our old life.