By Sarah Ungerer
When we set goals for ourselves, it’s always easy to visualize the reward at the end of the road. We’ve all been there before–it feels so good to accomplish what we set forth to conquer. But why? What causes this pride and makes our achievements worth celebrating?
Whether it’s New Year’s Day or the start of a brand new school year, many of us are constantly looking to discover ways that we can actively improve ourselves. Let’s say you’re hoping to lose a few pounds each season, or perhaps you want to come home with your best report card yet at the end of the semester. The list can go on and on. Whatever your target may be—no matter how exciting that final accomplishment looks like—take a moment to think about the “how” behind it all. Once you dig deep, you might find yourself realizing one inevitable, unquestionable truth: no success is possible without the journey.
“The journey is the destination,” is a popularized saying from artist Dan Eldon. You may have heard this line (or some variation of it) before. It’s a pretty common phrase that captures the core idea that the road you take to reach an objective is the most important and most definitive part of your goal. In my eyes, the experiences building up to these dreams of yours are the backbone of the end product. These experiences can be made up of anything–the good, the bad, and the ugly–but the key message to remember is that they all contribute to what you’re aiming towards.
What I really want to dive into, though, is exploring how you can make this journey better for yourself. And I believe it all starts with self-encouragement.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was a sedentary homebody. Just like the rest of the world, I had to prioritize my health and safety by staying at home under quarantine orders. It was a tough time period. Non-stop screen time via Zoom calls definitely contributed to a difficult year; however, in my case, that was just the tip of the iceberg. Easy access to my kitchen resulted in many days of over-snacking. Being confined to the walls within my house and understandably protective parents eliminated the time I would normally spend outdoors. My motivation to exercise and do anything remotely active plummeted fast. In just mere months, I fell into an unhealthy way of living. This lasted for a long time.
Admittedly, I didn’t choose a resolution right at the onset of 2021. It took me a few months following the New Year to commit myself to a goal. Thinking of one wasn’t a challenge, though, because I was aware that I wanted to change how I had been living. I wanted to take better care of my body. That’s exactly what I set out to do: prioritizing my health.
I started with choosing more nutritious foods and balanced portions as well as trading heavier meals for lighter options. I approached my hygiene more seriously, developing a morning and bedtime routine with face products that would help reduce acne. I began to boost my activity. Throughout the course of this past summer, I’ve been logging over 10,000 steps daily as a result of morning runs, evening walks, family hikes, and generally more time outside.
Hurrah! I’ve done it. Sounds absolutely amazing, right? Well, I hope it does! Being able to accomplish your objectives is an incredible feat; however, I need to particularly acknowledge the mental effort that it took for me to reach where I am now. Here’s where my journey comes in and what you can learn from it:
Reaching this achievement for my health was strenuous; the beginning was probably the hardest part. I had become so accustomed to poor eating habits and a lethargic lifestyle that change often felt out of reach. Although it took some time, I was able to overcome this doubt and move forward on the road to bettering myself. I can credit a lot of strategies to my success, but self-encouragement was undoubtedly the biggest factor.
Self-encouragement is so expansive. Whether it’s mentally pushing yourself to run an extra set of steps or journaling your reflections on what you were able to contribute to your goal for the week–my personal approaches–there are so many ways that you can incorporate it into your individual journeys. For example, try avoiding being overly self-critical of any setbacks you have or learn how to celebrate your every step, however small, that moves you forward. It’s a fantastic practice that will help you feel great about your progress and motivate you to continue pursuing your objective. So I highly recommend integrating this factor into your life.
Amidst the struggles you will experience in the climb towards your destination, keep in mind that reaching your long sought-after goal makes it worth it. Because, of course, “the journey is the destination.” And as tough as it may all seem, remember to make it easier on yourself by exploring how self-encouragement can do wonders for your progress.