For as long as I can remember, I have set a high goal, taken the necessary steps to achieve said goal, and reveled in my success and feelings of self-mastery. Unfortunately, my tunnel vision set on victory has never allowed me to relax into and enjoy the process, missing the sacred moments in between the achievements.
Does this sound familiar? Are you a self-proclaimed achievement junkie in need of a lengthy rehabilitation, preferably in a beach side facility stocked with mental health professionals?
If your answer to that question is a resounding YES, keep reading. Below are my four tips for slowing down and enjoying the process while working toward your goals.
1. Stay rooted in the present, because it’s a marathon not a sprint.
When I was an angsty teenager in high school, I couldn’t wait to move on to college, a place where I thought my introverted, over-intellectualized self would thrive. When I was working toward my undergraduate degree, I couldn’t wait to move on to graduate school, a much more specialized, serious, interesting and noble program, I thought. The day after I graduated from my Master’s program (yes, that program that I COULD NOT WAIT to be done with because I was so painfully sick of school), I declared, “I think I want to get my Ph.D. now.”
That was a almost two years ago, and in that time, I allowed myself to slow down and step back from over-achievement and goal orientation while I nurtured myself and explored my passions.
My point is that while obsessing over finish lines, I forgot to enjoy the races, races that looked much more like marathons than the sprints I made them out to be. (And I was a distance runner, so I should know better.)
Pace yourself. Slow down and be mindful of the present moment. That’s usually where the magic happens.
2. Practice self-awareness and take some time to look within.
Looking back, I often wish I could hop into a time machine and go back to my undergraduate days as the me I am today, someone who constantly strives to appreciate the moments of her life, settling into even the most unsettling of times.
Somehow, my goals, despite their respectability, became a way to avoid the moment while receiving fleeting love nuggets in the form of accolades from others (so that I could love myself). And ultimately, my athletic endeavors became a way for me to figuratively and quite literally run away from what I did not like about myself.
As a result, the universe forced me to sit still and go inward, and the only way it knew how to teach this fast talking, quick-moving, over-achiever was to take my legs away from me in the form of a neurological disease. I could no longer run from the truth of myself, and this led me into a period of self-discovery that continues today.
3. Enjoy the process.
This over-achieving character flaw (at times, because goal orientation can be quite positive when used and not abused) even carried over to my experiences with this neurological disease. My focus was on that miracle cure, that spontaneous remission that would occur in an instant if I only did everything I was “supposed to do” to heal.
Healing was the end goal that my sights were stubbornly set on and not once did I realize that the process was what really mattered, not the desperate goal of healing.
Eventually, the healing will come, but it will come as a result of relaxing into and ENJOYING the process of introspection, self-discovery, self-actualization and the realizing of my spiritual self.
4. Listen to your body.
How can you enjoy the process if you are in constant pain, be it physical or emotional? You just must. You have to gather the strength, the patience and the curiosity to live in the moment, even if the moment is awful.
Cry, kick and scream. Experience that awfulness, but don’t turn away from it, or ignore it, or stuff it down to fester within your soul as more dis-ease. It is that simple in theory, yet so difficult in practice.
There are days when I still struggle, typically when daily responsibilities feel overwhelming and time feels sparse, but my symptoms never lie, and when they worsen, I know I am off track.
Your body is always speaking to you. Listen to its subtle messages.