Which Is More Important, the Journey or the Destination?Apr 24, 2023
"Are we there yet?" I asked/whined.
"Ashley, it's been like 5 minutes since you asked last time. What's with the ants in the pants?" she replied, with only the slightest touch of detectable annoyance. (Her patience was commendable.)
I wish I could say this was a conversation between childhood Ashley and her parent, but the reality is this was well into adulthood, on a roadtrip with my best friend.
I was really excited to get where we were going, and that forward-focused anticipation made it tough to just relax and enjoy the short trip.
In a way, it made the experience more stressful and definitely more unpleasant than it had to be...for both of us.
The Ing v. the Ed
You know how it feels when someone drops some insight that rocks your world? It's as though something clicks into place and things all of a sudden make so much more sense.
And then, you try to share your new wisdom with someone else, and it comes out kind of garbled, falling pretty short of sparking those same light bulbs for them?
I'm afraid this is going to be one of those times.
In my last session, my coach, Shannon, worked her usual magic, and I left feeling like I had a solid understanding of what I was experiencing and, more importantly, actionable wisdom to follow when I start to veer off course again.
We talked about the Ing v. the Ed.
Not to be confused with the id, Freud's pleasure-seeking part of consciousness.
Ed, as in past-tense. WalkED, presentED, pitchED. Focusing on the Ed means focusing on the final outcome, on what happens after you do the thing.
In contrast, the Ing is the process, the doING. PreparING, writING, learnING, collaboratING. It places the emphasis on the process of what you are doing, rather than on the outcome or the end result.
This conversation came about because I have some lofty goals for the year but was noticing that I was feeling stressed, behind, and overwhelmed. My headspace was becoming busier and more negative than I like it to be, and I was having a hard time moving forward in a way that felt calm and confident.
She helped me figure out that I was getting caught up in the Ed. I was thinking about how my projects will land, how others will react to them, whether they'll be successful by whatever external metrics apply.
I was thinking ahead in a not so helpful way.
I don't want to abandon these goals. They are important to me for a variety of reasons and are things that I genuinely want to pour my time, attention, and energy into.
BUT, I don't want to be a stressed out mess in the pursuit of them. I don't want that undue stress to get in the way of me making progress. I don't want to gauge my success based on external measures - other people's reactions, the number of likes or sales I get. Because when I start to go down that line of thinking, I've noticed that it zaps creativity.
All of a sudden, I'm second-guessing what I write or the decisions I make. I fall into comparisons, doubt, or procrastination. Those things make it exponentially harder to do the work I want to do.
The alternative? Focusing on the Ing. It feels qualitatively different when I am staying grounded in the present, focusing on what's important to me and why, yet holding lightly to outcomes, embracing an experimental, playful mindset instead.
It's the last road trip I did - 3 times longer in the car yet zero complaints. We chatted, laughed, debated nerdy topics, and didn't even pull out the audiobook we had in reserve.
Instead of "Are we there yet?" followed by scrutiny and evaluation, predictions and anticipation, it was embracing the journey - being present in the process and trusting that I'll get where I'm going - I'll hit the target goal - in due time.
It's All About the Journey
Sometimes, the actions we take are going to be the same, but it's the experience of doing that action - or our way of being while doing, if that makes sense - that is different.
It's two kids in the back of a minivan headed to Disney World. One is constantly checking the time, complaining about boredom, pulling an old Ashley and demanding, "Are we there yet?" The other watches out the window, noticing the beauty in the landscape, reading an epic fantasy novel, and being patient. Both get to Disney World at the same time, but who had a better experience?
It's writing a paper in school, fueled by the quickly approaching deadline, pulling an all-nighter, turning in the paper just in the nick of time, and swearing you'll never procrastinate again. Compared to working steadily on the paper, making progress over the span of days, and turning it in with time to spare after getting a good night's sleep.
It's begrudgingly doing the dishes, focusing on how you're the only one in the family who does them, getting mired in resentment as you think about how no one is even going to notice and say thank you.
Contrast that to doing those same dishes, while focusing on how this small act is one you do to take care of your family, which is a high level priority to you.
In all of these, the same actions happen - travel, writing, washing - and yet the experiences are dramatically different.
It's the Ing v. the Ed. The journey versus the destination.
Recognizing When You're Off Course
As I strive to find the balance of pursuing ambitious goals while also enjoying my day-to-day life experience, I am tuning into what's driving me and why. I am trying to stay grounded in the journey, in the Ing, because those aspects are more in my control and make a huge difference, but it's hard to sidestep getting caught up in outcomes.
It's not that outcomes don't matter. It's just that they're not always in our direct control. And trying to ensure that we get the outcomes we really want can actually hold us back from taking action. If there's so much pressure on what you're doing that it seems like any misstep is a potential catastrophe, it can be hard to muster the energy (and courage) to take any step forward.
As I've gotten better at differentiating where I'm operating from, here's what I've noticed:
Ing - I give myself permission to trust myself, making the decisions that feel right, knowing that I can always have a do over later.
Ed - I get caught up in thinking about how the end result is going to be received, and I feel almost paralyzed with my next step. Is it right? Is it going to fail? What if it's dumb? What if I spend all this time and no one even reads/buys/cheers/
Ing - feels expansive, like I am growing.
Ed - feels constrictive, like I'm being squeezed in a vice or getting stuck or weighed down.
Ing - I am being driven by my values and strengths.
Ed - I am being driven by fear or avoidance of negative things like rejection and failure.
As you tackle your to do list, the day-to-day administrations of life, and your audacious goals, pay attention to the journey. How can you show up and be here, right where you are? How might you connect with your why? How can you move forward from a place of grounded values rather than fear or stress?
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"Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing the activity but in doing it."
- Greg Anderson
Written by Dr. Ashley Smith
Peak Mind Co-founder
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