Summer Road Trip, Part 3: ARE WE THERE YET???
When we set out on a new path, we imagine what it will be like to arrive at our destination. We take steps, we start to see change, momentum develops. Sometimes we can get so focussed on the goal of “getting there,” that we can miss the wonderful things along the road. And periodically we need to stop and assess where we are relative to where we want to be, which is a great opportunity to expand the view and consider the unexpected.
There is a shift that happens when we move beyond setting a singular goal, as though it’s a box we can check off, to adopting a broader perspective – that setting goals puts us on a path of discovery where all aspects, even what might be considered detours or failures, have meaning.
Einstein is credited with saying that we can look at life as though everything is a miracle, or nothing is a miracle. Moving beyond box-checking to the concept of living with intention and moving ourselves in the direction that calls us is something like that.
The question of whether you’re there yet becomes too narrow. Better to ask yourself what you’re doing to stay focussed, encourage yourself, and pay attention to what happens along the way so that you can use it as pieces of valuable guidance. Pay attention to how you feel. Follow your gut and lean into what feels good. A bad feeling is simply information you can appreciate as learning, and move on.
From each new step, our vision of what’s possible expands. You can see more today than you could yesterday. When we transition to the feeling of always moving toward that goal on the horizon, we must exercise caution.The feeling that what we want is “out there” has the potential to make us feel we’ll never get there – because, of course, if the finish line is always moving, we cannot account for actually getting anywhere! Remember that what we’re building is “in here,” in our own strength, awareness, and learning – not something outside of ourselves. This is a key difference between simply checking off a goal and putting ourselves on a path. And I cannot stress this enough – in this process it is very important to stop and notice when we accomplish something new, reach a new milestone, have a new experience, or let ourselves do/be/or have something we’ve never experienced before. We absolutely must celebrate these gains. Be your best coach! Talk to yourself in the mirror. Give yourself lots of approval and reinforcement.
The goals that you’ve set are markers along the path. Just like anything else in life, the up-close reality of them will probably look and feel different than what you imagined. A friend of mine once checked out 17 library books about dogs in order to prepare for having one. Of course the reality was filled with unexpected joy, humor, challenges, worries, and unimaginable love. We can prepare ourselves for what we want, but it will be different than what we imagine. That is never a failure. That is learning, that is life.
If you arrive at one of those goal markers and it doesn’t feel good, that is not a failure either. From that vantage point, you have more information than you had before about how to move forward and lean into the aspects that do feel like a good fit. Fine-tuning our goals becomes more possible as we get closer to them. A great affirmation to use can be, “I’ll know what to do when I get there.” If you set out in your car today to drive to the Grand Canyon, you don’t need to know which lane you’ll need to be in once you arrive. You pay attention to information along the way, and you'll know what to do when you get there. And, if you get to the desert climate and decide it’s not for you, it’s okay to change your mind and choose something else. Having free choice and listening to what’s right for each of us is how we make our lives uniquely ours.
Are we there yet? It depends on how you look at it. If you’ve put yourself on a path of identifying and creating what you want for your life, you are getting “there.” If you can acknowledge the markers along your path as accomplishments and opportunities, then you can celebrate these as “there” moments, knowing that each one opens up information for more. When we move from accomplishing goals as an end-point, to the awareness that the very movement toward our goals brings the golden keys of possibility, understanding it as a process rather than an event, then the feeling of the path itself is being “there.”
Dianne Frances, MFA, MS, LPC, NCC Psychotherapist / Integrative Mental Health Specialist