How the Journey is More Important than the Destination

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People say that the journey is more important than the destination.  I know deep in my bones that that is true.  Especially when I am my best self.

But every once in a while, my best self goes on vacation without letting me know.  And an imposter I will call trying-to-be-my-best-self-but-not-being-able-to-right-now, takes over.  The imposter tries to convince me that the destination is all that matters, and that I must run over myself to get there.  At those times, simple ideas like these help me keep things in perspective.

Jokes told well.

A few years ago, I was terrible at telling jokes.  T-E-R-R-I-B-L-E.  The reaction I got most often when I told a joke (the long kind, not the one or two liners) was – silence.  Followed by some sorry forced laughter, “ohhhh, I get it now,” a consoling hug from one of my sisters, or a pat on the back from a sympathetic listener.  My friends teased me kindly about my joke-telling skills.  And we laughed at my complete lack of ability to tell them.  As far as joke-telling went, I was the joke.

Years of this later, I decided that I wanted to tell jokes well.  So I set about investigating what my problem was.  It wasn’t the jokes I was telling: people laughed when others told them.  Something seemed to go awry when I delivered them.  And I wanted to know what it was.  So I sat a friend down and asked for advice.  After all, he told jokes often.  People, myself included, listened enthralled.  And laughed gleefully afterwards.  I wondered what his secret was.

This is what he told me.  It’s not about the punch line, he said.  It’s about the build up to the punch line.  You have to tell a good story.  You have to get people to like your story, and get them invested in it.  To the point where they’re feeling (without knowing it) – this story is so good, how good is the punch line going to be?  In anticipation of that sweet ending, they’re already giggling a little.  You’re doing your work before you get to the punch line.  So that success is in the bag when you get to it.  The punch line just wraps the story up in a way.  And although the point of telling a joke is to get to a punch line that makes people laugh, in some ways, it is least relevant to the process of telling a joke well.

This was revolutionary to me.  I had always believed that the punch line was the most important part.  So I butchered the story.  I rushed through it to get to the end.  To get to the part where gratification would come.  To the part where people would laugh.  Except that they didn’t.  It was like I had done everything right, but had somehow got everything wrong.  I had rushed through the journey to get to the destination.  And when I got there, it failed to satisfy.

Good things.

If you’ve ever read a book to a child, you’ll know what I mean.  Children don’t seem to care as much about what happens in the end, as they do about the experience of having a story read to them.  They love the different voices, the growls, the animation, and the expressions we make as we read to them.  The same is true for adults.  We don’t read mysteries to find out whodunit.  We read to experience the thrill of not knowing, but wanting to.  It’s the best part.

Forsaking the enjoyment of the journey for the destination is like gulping down an exquisite meal with the sole purpose of filling your belly.  And not tasting what you eat.  At the end of the meal, you can’t understand why others liked it so much.  It’s like skiing downhill with the goal of getting to the bottom.  And forgetting that the thrill of the ride is what matters most.  It’s like going on a road trip, but forgetting to enjoy the trip.

And trips.

So, when the imposter trying-to-be-my-best-self-but-not-being-able-to-right-now takes over, I try to remind myself to enjoy the trip.  To be present in it.  To enjoy it.  And to make the most of it.  Because while destinations are worth striving for, some never arrive.  The ones that do, don’t always look like we expect them to.  A few bring what we hope they will.  But even they sometimes lose their appeal, and are quickly replaced.

All we do know with certainty is that we are on this trip.  And that we can choose to ignore it, or make the most of it.  Everything else is just a mind trip.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Aarti Mehta-Nayyar September 7, 2011 at 8:44 am

Meghana, lovely article, talking about enjoying the trip, I also feel that way about taking pictures… I think we get sooo trigger-happy taking pictures when we see something beautiful, that in trying to capture the beauty for later on, we almost forget to enjoy the sight, take it in, live it and enjoy it and really the picture never ever captures the magic of that moment :)

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Meghana September 7, 2011 at 9:47 am

You’re right Aarti. Thanks for a good reminder. I’ve been guilty of getting trigger-happy with my camera, and a few stern warnings from my sister later, I try to enjoy what I’m seeing and breathe it all in. I’m glad you’re able to keep that perspective. :)

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Vishal September 8, 2011 at 7:43 am

Thank you for this article, Meghana. This is such a valuable piece of advice about life, yet so easy to forget once the hustle and bustle of life takes over.

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Meghana September 8, 2011 at 8:48 am

So glad you liked it Vishal. :) You’re right that it’s easy to forget when the hustle and bustle of life takes over.

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LIB September 8, 2011 at 11:46 pm

well delivered and finished Meghana. May be you should write jokes instead of saying it :-) . Another suggestion when you say a joke try not to laugh or giggle while you deliver it. Extra emotion always kills the joke. As for the journey so very true. Just as with the joke scenario, try not to anticipate or expect the outcomes or the destination too much. Also try and share your journey and make as many connections as you can just as you are doing here in this blog, because you may have a valuable input others may need and others may one that you may find valuable. And you are really lucky if the destination you strived becomes the journey, if it makes any sense. happy travels :-)

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Meghana September 9, 2011 at 10:33 am

Thanks LIB. I’m so glad you liked it. I’ve never written a joke myself…maybe I should try. But for now, I find jokes on the internet and tell them. :) I love your thought about the destination becoming the journey. You’re right that each one of can learn from each other. So thank you so much for sharing your wonderful thoughts and advice. :)

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sheila October 3, 2011 at 9:03 pm

I love this article, Meghana. I relate to many of your articles but this one in particular. I have to work hard at living in the present. I am so often focused on what happened yesterday or what’s going on tomorrow, or the end-goal, that I totally forget to enjoy myself right now. The joke analogy is spot on! Thanks for this terrific perspective.

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Meghana October 3, 2011 at 10:22 pm

I’m so glad you liked it Sheila. Like you, I often have to remind myself to come back into the present. And I have found that the more I remind myself, the longer those times of presence seem to get! Thank you for reading! :)

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julie January 10, 2012 at 6:07 am

GREAT POST!! There us a song by Miley Cyrus that basically puts all you have said together called the climb.
There’s always gonna be another mountain
I’m always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose
Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waitin’ on the other side
It’s the climb

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Meghana January 10, 2012 at 5:50 pm

I’m so glad you liked it Julie. Thanks so much for sharing Miley Cyrus’s song too…I’m going to try to listen to it now. :)

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