It’s midnight. I’m in upstate New York, in a cabin with some friends, and I’ve snuck away to the cabin’s study to do my exercises for the day. And there I am, with my feet on a chair, doing declining pike pushups to increase my vertical press strength.
I’m going to all this effort, when I could have just kept chilling and drinking tea downstairs with my friends, because I’ve committed to achieving the Freestanding Handstand Pushup (known in the calisthenics community as the HeSPU) as my big fitness goal for the year.
As I’m finishing my exercises, noticing that my ability to hold crow pose has increased, and an increase in how many sets and reps I can do of the declining push ups, I can’t help but laugh and feel pride and joy in my efforts and achievements.
In that moment, it struck me what a writer in a book I’ve previously written about, The Practicing Mind, meant when he talked about finding joy in the ‘process of achieving a goal’ as opposed to finding joy in the achievement of the goal itself.
Sitting there, panting, exhausted in my star-speckled onesie, I understood what it meant to “enjoy the journey” instead of focusing on the destination. I realized that I was having fun just DOING the work, knowing it was bringing me closer to the goal I set.
That realization made me start thinking about one of my favorite action-adventure series: One Piece.
As a real quick summary: One Piece is about a pirate named Monkey D. Luffy, who decides he's going to be the Pirate King, and sets out on his own to assemble a crew and find the previous King's treasure. Shenanigans and epic fights ensue.
Something I’ve noticed about it, compared to a lot of other anime and series, is that it is very obviously about the Journey instead of the Goal. It's been running for years, and while the Straw Hat Pirates are getting closer to finding One Piece... well, that's really not what it's about.
They're all just having such a blast on their adventure, getting into fights, taking on insane challenges, and making new friends. None of them spend all that much time thinking about the end goal really. They're all so in the present, enjoying and facing what's in front of them at the moment, and rising to face what each moment presents (occasionally they can be forward thinking, taking two years off to train and prepare to enter a big turning point in their journey).
I don't even think all that much about them reaching the end now. I'm just having too much fun watching them deal with what's on their plate.
When I think about it, do I even really want it to end?
P.S. And I’d like to leave you with a challenge for the next time you’re working on a goal of yours. Notice the pride, and joy you feel in the achieving of your goal, the journey. Whether you’re at the gym finishing a set, or you understand a BJJ technique a bit better, or you make a minor gain in your balance skills. Notice that feeling of pride, and celebrate your progress.
-Matthew D. Huff ∞
(P.P.S: Check out my adventures at @matt_the_infinite on Instagram!)