At this busy time of year, sometimes I find myself switching into endurance mode. I focus on pushing through, on accomplishing goals, on crossing tasks off my to do lists. I tell myself that when the family is all gathered together, when Christmas Day comes, then I’ll be able to relax — right now, there’s work to be done, presents to buy, cards to mail, food to prepare.
And yet… if I have a wonderful Christmas Day but a terrible two weeks leading up to it, is it really worth it? If I focus only on the destination, then I forget to enjoy the journey. And the journey is where life happens.
Take parenting, for example. As a parent, it’s easy to get bogged down in all the things to do: make sure they do their homework, put them to bed, drive them to soccer practices, pack their lunches. We want to do it right so that one day our kids will be mature, responsible adults.
But if we are in endurance mode, trying to push it through to make it to the destination, we might forget to enjoy the journey. We might neglect laughing with our kids, going for a family bike ride, or late night conversations with our teens. We might miss the place where life happens.
So I’ve been reflecting on how to enjoy the journey more, when it comes to parenting, the holidays, or any large project in my life. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
1) Practice Gratitude
When I’m too focused on enduring, I forget to be thankful. Gratitude re-centers me and reminds me to enjoy the blessings of the present moment. Some people find that keeping a gratitude journal is a helpful discipline. Every evening they write down three things they are thankful for and say a prayer of thanksgiving.
2) Stick to Healthy Routines
This one is hard for me, but so very important. The busier my life becomes, the more I need to make sure I keep up my regular exercise routine and my habits of morning Bible reading and prayer. Yet all too often, when I shift into endurance mode, my healthy habits go out the window. To increase our ability to enjoy the journey, we need to establish healthy routines and stick with them even when the going gets tough.
3) Prioritize Connecting
Much of the pleasure of the journey comes from connecting with others along the way. For me, a heartfelt conversation with a friend, a warm hug, or even a quick exchange of texts with one of my kids helps to remind me that relationships are more important than to do lists. When we make connecting a priority, we increase our ability to enjoy the journey.
4) Give Back
Taking the time to be aware of the needs of others and making the effort to act to meet those needs is a beautiful way to enjoy the journey. When I’m in endurance mode I become self-centered. Deliberately shifting my attention and practicing an act of kindness not only blesses the other person, it also relieves my own stress. It reminds me of what is truly important in life.
5) Savor Joyful Moments
When the beautiful, joyful moments happen, don’t let them slip by without noticing them. Pay attention! Savor them.
It helps me to focus on my senses. At Christmastime, for example, I might see beautiful Christmas lights, hear much-loved carols, taste warm gingerbread, feel hugs of those dear to me, and smell cinnamon and nutmeg. At those moments, I remind myself to notice the surge of pleasure, the lift of the heart. Joyful moments give us energy to continue the journey.
6) Pace Yourself
Plan ahead. When possible, take preventative measures to keep from becoming overwhelmed. This might mean taking longer to complete a project or eliminating some events from your Christmas plans this year. It might mean deliberately simplifying your family life. It’s hard to enjoy the journey when you’re sprinting. Slow it down; pace yourself. How you get there is as important as where you are going. The process is as important as the destination.
Question: What do you think? What helps you to enjoy the journey? You can leave a comment by clicking here.