Many years ago, when I began working on my first Masters Degree at Princeton, I had an experience that really helped me change my life and put me on a new path, a new direction for how to live my life. Towards the end of my degree I had made many accomplishments while at Princeton. I had was graduating with honors, I had won many awards for some research work I had done, I had been accepted into one of the top PhD clinical psychology programs in the United States, and all seemed to be going well.
On a beautiful spring day during my last days there, I had decided to go to a park and just hang out for a few hours. I had not done this at all during the entire time I was there at Princeton. I was very busy achieving things, being involved, being active; but I hadn’t really slowed down and just experienced the beauty of Princeton, New Jersey. If you ever get the chance, it really is a beautiful city with lovely parks and open fields all around.
The day was pristine and I decided to lie on my back on the grass and just look at the sky and the trees all around me when something happened. I realized that I had been there now for almost three years and had never done this; yet this moment, this activity of just lying on my back and looking at the sky was the most beautiful experience I’d had during my entire stay at Princeton. I had missed out on just being, being present and enjoying nature and the surroundings around me. I was so busy achieving that I never just stopped and enjoyed the wonders that were always there for me to enjoy. It was a very sad experience for me, but one that really pushed me forward and helped me start changing the way I lived my life. Of course it wasn’t an overnight change, but I really did begin to slow down and enjoy the journey. I was not just achieving, but enjoying the process of moving forward growing and just being, just enjoying nature and life as it happens right here, right now.
When I came out to California I discovered all of the beautiful hiking trails that were all around me and I found many people in my doctoral program that would join me on different days to walk these trails. I really was committed to taking the time to truly enjoy life and stop just achieving. The funny thing was, when I first started going on the trails I probably had about ten different people who would hike with me at different times, on different days. It was so beautiful hiking on the hills and the mountains; but at the end of the program I couldn’t find one person in my doctoral program that had the time to go hiking anymore. I obviously found many other people who would join me, they were people who had obviously learned to enjoy life and take the time to enjoy the journey of life, but none were from my doctoral program.
One of the key factors of happiness is that we really do need to enjoy the journey, no matter what’s happening in our lives. If we’re on that achievement path, if we’re trying to make money, earning degrees, fame, it doesn’t matter what it is, we still need to enjoy life along the way. It isn’t that it is wrong to achieve but it’s wrong to miss out on life as we achieve. The lane of gratification leads to a very empty, very sad life. There’s nothing wrong with achieving but let’s enjoy the journey along the way. Enjoy life, get out, be with friends, be in nature; enjoy the journey, enjoy life and achieve; we really can do both. We have a tendency to make our achievements, our goals, supersede living and loving life right here, right now. So often we say, “Some day I’ll slow down. Some day I’ll enjoy life, but right now I need to achieve. I need to make it so I have time to slow down when I reach my goals. When I reach my goals, then I’ll slow down and enjoy life.” But why not achieve, slow down a bit, and enjoy the journey? We can do both. We may reach our goals a little bit later but instead of just reaching our goals, not knowing in what shape we will be when we get there, if we enjoy the journey along the way if it doesn’t turn out the way we expected we’re not going to care that much because we’ve enjoyed the journey along the way. It’s a win/win. We get to work towards our goals AND enjoy our journey. The key is that we have to slow down a bit. We have to let go of some of our goals or say we will reach some of them but instead of in three months it might take six months. It’s the old tortoise and hare story. The tortoise still got to the end of the race but he did so slowly, enjoying the journey.
We can achieve anything as long as we enjoy the journey, slow down, and work towards our goals. Ultimately, what can really help us along the way is to be passionate; to love our goals because we just like doing them and enjoy the journey along the way. That is truly the ultimate win/win scenario, because even if nothing happens with our goals we will have enjoyed the journey and we will have loved doing what we were doing all along the way. If it doesn’t work out, well, then we just move to the next thing.
Dr. Robert Puff, Ph.D. is a meditation expert, international speaker and the creator of the weekly Meditation For Health Podcast, available at http://www.MeditationForHealthPodcast.com He also creates a weekly podcast that explores the world of Enlightenment available at http://www.EnlightenmentPodcast.com He has a weekly podcast that explores the world of Happiness at http://www.HappinessPodcast.org He also has a blog at http://www.Meditation-Enlightenment.com If you would like to contact Dr. Puff, his e-mail address is DrPuff@cox.net