Enjoy the Journey

Another blogger that I follow recently wrote an article that I can summarize as: I set a financial goal, I meet that goal and I feel…hollow. I set a new goal, I meet that new goal, and I feel…hollow, still. Will I ever get to a place where I’m truly happy with what I’ve achieved?!

I thought it was an important confession to consider, whether one is motivated by personal finance or not. Most people I know are very goal-oriented. We have career aspirations, races to run, weight to lose, and retirement goals. We’ve planned conferences to attend, check off countries we’ve visited and mountains we’ve climbed. We’re always seeking, always looking and leaning way out in the future because we know that it forces our feet to play catch up. But that lean can also throw us off balance.

I replied to this blogger with the following idea—I’m sure someone else has used it before. I dub it the thru-hiking analogy. One of my dear friends, Tyler (@tylerhikes on Insta/Twitter), has hiked trails like the Appalachian Trail and New Zealand’s Te Araroa. When I think of Tyler, I wonder: did he hike those 2000 miles trails just to raise his hands at the end and move on?

Tyler (@tylerhikes) meditating against one of the “white blazes” that mark the Appalachian Trail (Photo courtesy Tyler Socash)

Or did he hike those trails for the silent times in the forest and the rainstorms waking him up in the night? Did he do it to experience the other people on the trails, both his fellow hikers and kind-hearted “trail angels” who take weary hikers into their homes? Did he do it to experience a year of daily intrigue, or just for the final moment of triumph?

In case my leading questions weren’t clear enough, Tyler did it for the daily enjoyment. If you want to hike the Appalachian Trail, you have to enjoy sleeping on the ground, sharing your environment with wildlife, eating cold oatmeal, and showering once a week. Sure, summitting Mount Katahdin at trail’s end will feel great…for about an hour. But the glory will wear off. You’ll be left with either the memories of  wildflower prairies and wild horses, or with the regret of sore legs and grimy discomfort.

Look at that horse! Tyler met this beauty in rural Virginia, and yes, it’s a wild horse. Someone tell Mick Jagger! (Photo courtesy Tyler Socash)

If you don’t enjoy the daily process, then you might be disappointed by the fleeting exultation once you surpass your goal. This applies to thru-hiking, it applies to personal finance, and it applies to whatever else your goals and achievement methods are.

I suppose, in a way, this is a rehashing of the Stockdale Paradox: don’t lose faith that you’ll succeed in the end, but you must also face the daily tasks. It is good to have goals to shoot for, but it’s also important to enjoy what you do to meet those goals. So consider this my friendly encouragement. Develop a financial plan that allows you to enjoy your present and plan for your future. Find some exercises that you actually enjoy (I’m looking at you, road runs). Diet away, Rice Cake, but keep some flavor in there.

Enjoy the journey, and thank you for reading the Best Interest blog. -Jesse

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