Recently I reached a seminal moment in my professional and personal journey. After three and a half years of study, research, and writing, I completed my dissertation requirements and earned my PsyD in Human and Organizational Psychology (I/O). The moment that I received formal notification that I was done brought great relief. There had been quite a few hurdles along the way and I was happy to know that it was all over and I had finally earned the title “doctor”.
After I had a chance to celebrate, however, some nagging thoughts started to enter my mind. I began to ask myself what’s next. All of this effort. All of the papers and research. For three and a half years. And now, nothing but a few congratulations and “mazal tov”s and an updated LinkedIn profile. It was almost as if others seemed happier about my accomplishments than I was. How could that be?
I think that my mistake was that I may have focused too heavily on the end goal and assumed that by finishing the journey I would suddenly feel this rush of happiness or fulfillment, as if there was this pot of gold awaiting me on the other side of the finish line. What I soon realized was that In order to feel real satisfaction and joy, it is important to try to find it from the entire process that has led you to this point.
John C. Maxwell says that “success is a daily thing, not a destination thing... Success is a journey, not a destination.” This means that we don’t become successes the day that we get our diplomas. Diplomas are merely forms of recognition for all of our hard work all of the way through.
In a powerful interview with Steve Harvey, Bishop TD Jakes speaks of the need to enjoy the process, enjoy the journey. “Celebrate,” he says, “all along the way, all along the way.” To celebrate all along the way means that when we take positive steps towards becoming an even better, more accomplished person, we should take a half-step back from time to time to recognize what we have achieved, even if our real goal remains off in the horizon.
Most of us tolerate processes and delay our happiness until we reach our destination. When I get my degree, we say, I’ll be happy. When I get that job I’ll be content. When I get married I will settle down. When I lose those pounds I will be comfortable with who I am. And so on and so forth.
But like an athlete who trains endlessly and tirelessly for a race, the benefits are not only in the competition. We all recognize how each mile, each training session, helps the athlete become more physically fit or at least stay in peak performance. The same can be said for all of us. Regardless of what you seek to do, recognize that each positive step is helping you in the moment while also bringing you closer to where you want to be.
You completed another course? Go out for dinner. You lost a couple of pounds? Celebrate (though maybe not with food.) You submitted your resume ten times and went on a bunch of interviews? Give yourself a pat on the back, knowing that you are doing things to better your life.
Take the time to reflect upon the reasons as to why you pursued your goal in the first place. Why was this so important to me for me to sacrifice so much and work so hard? Then think about all of the things that you have accomplished along the way in order to get there. Consider the mental, physical or spiritual learning and training that you accomplished and how that positions you better for whatever it is that you want to achieve. Last year, you might say, there would be no way that I would have done X. And now you can and do. That thought alone should you bring you much satisfaction.
As you reflect on your many smaller achievements keep in mind that over time they will show up. Dave Ramsey once said, “I have worked 17 years to become an overnight success.” Getting noticed is that natural outgrowth of doing what you have been doing well while continually striving to get better. Over time, those efforts and the expertise that they have engendered is what gives people the confidence to seek your opinion and listen to your words.
Remember, it’s all about the journey, not the destination. No matter what we achieve there are always new journeys to embark upon. So we may as well get used to enjoying them.