In early 2015, I realized that I had visited nearly all 50 states in America….all except Idaho and Montana. It occurred to me that I would be turning 50 years old that year – and I had this idea that if I got a little intentional, I could complete the “50 States x 50 Race” (…I think I made up) by visiting all 50 states before I turned 50. What an incredible accomplishment that would be! Right?
I worked through the logistics: I would fly to Spokane, WA then drive to Coeur d’Alene, ID. While there, I could play some golf, and then make my way over to Montana…only a short distance from Coeur d’Alene. My buddy Jon from high school, – always up for an adventure – would come with me. The trip was on.
So, in May of that year, Jon and I hopped on a flight and we headed out on our adventure. On day one we travelled to Idaho (#49…check!). On day two, we played golf at the Coeur d’Alene Resort (…famous for its moveable island green. Yes…I got the certificate!). And on day three we drove an hour or so East to the Montana border. (#50…check!) The race was over. I won!
Cue the big celebration, right? The elation. The pure joy. The confetti.
Well… what I experienced was a bit different. And frankly it was a bit of a letdown.
There was no there there. I can’t even tell you how ridiculous I felt. I said to myself “ You did what? Travelled all this way just to be able to tell your friends you travelled to 50 states!?” (… this whole essay is starting to feel like a giant humble brag.)
But the truth is that I had an amazing three days with a life-long buddy who enjoys many of the things I do. Golf, adventure, great conversations about the meaning of life…etc. That was where the joy and happiness was for me. And if I reflect on my journey through the other 48 states, I can think of tons of great memories and experiences as well.
So, by the time I got to the Montana border, the “prize” didn’t matter as much.
The point is this: it’s not about the destination – it’s about the journey. Always has been. Always will be.
When I was younger, I thought that was just another platitude. Pure garbage. A phrase invented by people who were too afraid or too timid to do what it took to get themselves across the finish line.
I don’t believe that anymore. I believe that I am most energized when I am working toward something – engaged purposefully in pursuit of a goal, dream, or defined outcome. On the path. On the journey.
I am immensely satisfied when I arrive at my goals… and even happy or elated sometimes. (Ask me about my experiences walking across the Grand Canyon’s Rim-to-Rim route the next time you see me.) But looking back, it really WAS the journey that mattered most. And looking ahead, I believe it really IS the journey that matters most.
The journey is what points you. It is what energizes you, challenges you, and puts you into the kind of productive struggle that creates growth. (Thank you, Dan Coyle.)
Learning to play golf at a higher level the way you are doing it IS a journey. Remember to enjoy it. Relish it. Know what it is – and what it is not. It IS an amazing adventure of learning and growth. It is NOT your identity. It is NOT an obstacle to be overcome – but an experience to move through that will change you forever.
In Jordan Petersons’ book Beyond Order, he says that “You are not only something that is. You are something that is becoming…”
Humans are teleological… we must have purpose. We must have targets. We must be aimed at a destination…and be traveling in that direction. It is how we are wired. But what truly brings joy, satisfaction and happiness to a life is not necessarily arriving at some pre-ordained goal, but rather what we experience along the journey itself.
The next time you are in struggle, experiencing frustration about your game or about that shot that just went sideways, stop. Take a deep breath and remind yourself: “It’s the journey.” Then consider the gift inherent in that moment …how that moment will make you stronger, smarter, and more able to complete the journey you are on. Remember that you are becoming… one little step at a time.