“Fulfillment is not born of the dream. Fulfillment is born of the journey.”– Simon Sinek
A student at the business school where I received my degree once shared with me her frustrations and fears around what I considered to be the hardest class of the program: financial accounting. Just seeing those two little words gives me an awful feeling. If you know anything about me, you know just surviving that class – let alone getting any kind of meaningful grade – was a bit like my own climb up Mount Everest. I wasn’t sure if I would pass the class, and started playing out the worst-case scenarios in my head. “How many classes can I get a low grade in and still get my degree,” I wondered. I even looked up the program guidelines to find the answer and make my plan of action when I failed. One option I found was I could repeat the class; while this was a viable option from a logistical standpoint, it sounded like even more torture than I was already experiencing. I couldn’t bear the thought! (I should note here that I truly enjoyed the professor, should she ever find this blog and know who I’m talking about – you know who you are, and I have enjoyed our meaningful conversations and your warm personality. Let’s be clear though – I am not meant to do anything in the realm of financial accounting.)
As of this blog post, it has been 2.5 years since my graduation, and yes – I passed the class on the first try. So, what did I say to the student who felt the same frustration and fears that I had felt just a short couple of years before she did? I shared with her that without the struggle, the moment at which the degree was officially conferred upon me at commencement wouldn’t have been so utterly joyful. I worked so hard – harder than I’ve worked in my entire life, in fact – for that degree. Was it joyful because I had worked so hard? Not exactly; that level of joy I experienced only comes from a place of having been through fear and the doubt as to whether I would make it through. In that moment when I finally made it to the proverbial “summit,” it meant immeasurably more to me than it would have if the path had been an easy one. The fulfillment, then, came from the journey, and specifically from the hardest struggles along the way.
What about you? If you’re on a journey where you’re currently facing obstacles, I hope the following tips will help you navigate the path:
Appreciate all the lessons, even though some are more expensive than others.
Many of the lessons we learn along our journeys come at a low cost – for example, in the form of an action we observe, or a quote we read – while others cost us years, failed relationships, or large amounts of money. In Jen Sincero’s book, You Are a Badass at Making Money (highly recommended, by the way), she points out that the “are-you-freaking-kidding-me” kinds of obstacles are the ones that tend to show up right before a big success, and in my journey, that has been 100% true. The key is to appreciate them all as equally important steps on your path, all of which are helping you get where you desire to be.
Focus on the joy you will feel at milestones along the way.
We’ve all heard the saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” but pause here for a moment and consider whether you really embrace and believe that for yourself. Progress takes time, iteration, and stamina. Give yourself some grace and remember: if parts of the journey weren’t so hard, the milestones and ending wouldn’t be as joyful.
Remember that not all journeys have a destination.
My degree example above had a clear end point (graduation), but others are not so cut-and-dried. Does fulfilling your purpose, for example, ever really have an end point? I would argue not only that it doesn’t, but that even if you did arrive at your purpose, life would invariably throw a curveball at that moment. (Global pandemic, anybody?) This is exactly what happened to me in 2020. I finally found my dream job and had the courage to leave my full-time position to start my business, had clients and was thriving in what I was doing… only to be left with exactly zero clients when the pandemic hit and budgets were slashed. When something like this happens to you – and it will – remember it’s just a necessary and expected part of the process. When you make it to the other side of the obstacle, the journey will be that much more fulfilling.
What are some ways you’ve found fulfillment in your journey? I would love to hear your thoughts in a comment below.