In a world of instant gratification, it’s easy to get obsessed with finding a silver bullet solution to life’s trials and tribulations. We want to take a pill and be thin overnight, invest in the right stock and be set for life, click our heels three times and be taken home. We say, “If I just had X everything would be perfect. I wouldn’t have to worry about anything. Life would be so easy!” Some people can waste years waiting to win the lottery or be discovered by Oprah, hoping it will solve all their problems.
What makes the pursuit of silver bullets so tragic is the years lost to pipe dreams. All this wasted time could have been better spent investing in a 401K or building an author platform. Instead of chasing rainbows, you can work towards goals that not only create a solid foundation that makes success more secure, but also achieve them via a process that results in more happiness and contentment in your life. Science has shown us, time and again, what we already know to be true (but are often in denial about): the joy is in the journey. Put another way, happiness lies in its pursuit.
In the beginning of The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy is instructed to “Follow The Yellow Brick Road” if she wants to get back home to Kansas. By the end of the story, we find out that because she’s been wearing the Ruby Slippers the whole time, at any point in her journey, she could have just clicked her heels three times and transported herself home instantly. Hindsight is 20/20, right?
We always have the opportunity to take the shortcuts in life – to check out, to phone it in, to not bother trying. We start out on our own Yellow Brick Road, determined to reach our Emerald City. When the journey gets hard, though, we can start looking for Ruby Red Slippers – magical shortcuts to achieve our dreams. When we find ourselves in a Haunted Forest or Witch’s Castle, it’s tempting to balk and look for an easy way out. What we have to remember is that our journey is what defines us, not our prizes and trophies. When asked why she didn’t tell Dorothy about the Ruby Slippers’ power earlier Glinda says, “Because she wouldn’t have believed me. She had to learn it for herself.” It is these very trials and tribulations life puts us through that enable us to grow stronger, be braver, and become more resilient over time. In fact, it is often not the achievement of goals that leads to happiness. Rather, it is the pursuit of those goals, that brings us the contentment we long for. A recent study even shows that anticipating something can be more enjoyable than actually getting it.
So how do stay on your Yellow Brick Road, and keep your journey interesting enough to resist the temptation of the occasional pair of Ruby Slippers? How do you craft a life filled with lasting happiness?
Start with these bits of advice:
- Have a Vision for a Quest that fits with your personal interests and values. Shoot for Mastery (attaining progress and growth) goals, versus Performance (demonstrating skill or ability) goals.
- Focus on intrinsic goals, not extrinsic goals. Intrinsic aspirations are related to what’s inside the self, rather than to what’s outside the self.
- Always “chunk down” big goals into smaller, achievable goals that are progressively more challenging.
- Implement an evaluation process (for example, “Plan > Do > Review”) to track your progress.
It was a long journey that enabled Dorothy to see what she was capable of during her adventure in The Wizard of Oz. The Dorothy at the end of the story, isn’t the same girl she was at the beginning. She’s a stronger person because of the challenges she had to overcome along the way. We all have it in us to take the path less traveled by, rather than bypass it for the instant gratification offered by some Ruby Slippers. When you have the chance to click your heels, or follow the yellow brick road, think twice. Even if your end destination is the same, it is how you get there that is will ultimately define who you are when you do arrive.
Featured photo credit: airdiogo via flickr.com