Dream on

Chasing your dreams: Focusing on the journey rather than the end goal

Sometimes, our dreams can feel impossible to achieve. Stephanie Lee, OMS IV, shares why she believes the journey is more important than the destination.

“It is good to have an end to journey towards, but it is the journey that matters in the end.”—Ursula K. LeGuin

Our dreams guide the imprint of the path we have the potential to take in this life. They reflect our inner wants and desires, showing us glimpses of our true north. Many times, dreams can seem vast and obscure. As a former competitive athlete and swim coach, I found that consistency and persistence weren’t enough to create movement toward one’s goals.

While holding the framework of structure to the daily routine, I’ve also taught my swimmers to create space for imagination, whereby the possibilities of achieving one’s dreams are endless. It is the dreamer inside of you, in addition to the work and journey along that way, that create meaning and hope to these aspirations.

Yet, when we chase our dreams, we will not always achieve them in the way we envisioned. However, in the chasing of dreams, we often transform into people who are capable of moving into the next phases of life, eventually becoming closer to being fully realized to what we came here to do.

Life’s a journey, not a destination

I realized that the journey we go on while pursuing our dreams is much more meaningful than the destination, for the journey is a daily ritual of practice, perseverance and patience. Although we may have a preference for the destination, we have less control over whether and how we get there.

As I coach my swimmers to meet their personal best times, some may not break their record, but they certainly grow into athletes with greater resilience, visuospatial awareness and faith in themselves, with the opportunity to create bigger and greater dreams in their realm of interest that they can take into their career and other aspirations. Often, if we continue the path toward our destination, we will eventually get there, but not always in the way we dreamt it to be.

I am often asked the question by those I’ve mentored, “What if I don’t make it in life?” A valid worry held by many as they travel on the road where life has yet to unfold. Yet the mystery of what could be is often the very thing that drives us to our creativity and inspiration.

For example, if one dreams of becoming a chef, one may venture out to multiple restaurants and experiment with recipes, become an apprentice in culinary teachings and perhaps create a food channel on YouTube. And even if one never ultimately becomes a chef, these endeavors help one develop many skills, such as curiosity and dedication, that are useful for other pursuits, including medical school.

Don’t discount idle moments

Although dreams show us a directional path we can take, we should not become so consumed by the manifestation of the dream that we lose sight of our inner transformations while on the journey and also the possibilities of other ventures. Sometimes, we can mistake the moments of “idleness” as not making progress. However, in those hours of “idleness,” we may find that our minds unravel themselves and create space for new ideas and solutions to arise, creating a fresh outlook on our current project or pursuits.

Furthermore, what we deem as the end result of our dreams is a notion we must take great care in reflecting on. Was this something someone else wanted for me? Does it align with my values? Knowing this, one regains clarity for a directional path that is more suitable and satisfying.

Additionally, we may also make the mistake of believing that when we achieve some goal, we become happier as a result. However, what we later realize is that happiness is temporary, and we return back to our baseline of how happy we were before our achievement.

The evolution of the self

What is of utmost importance is the evolution of the self through the process. This includes the depth of our character and morality, compassion and insight. In addition, the lessons learned along the way become part of our thought process and offerings in the next phase of life. Far more important than materializing our dreams, I would argue, is who we eventually become for ourselves and others.

As you enter phases of pursuit, redirection or idleness, remember that the journey toward your dreams is much more than the ups and downs. It is the magic of the arising and unraveling of dreams turned into wonder and inspiration. It is realizing the part you play in this large network of life that is so humbling yet empowering. You find that creation and destruction happen separately and all at once. When you see this happening before your eyes, magic arises and your sense of being expands.

Sometimes, the way things unfold may not make sense. However, looking back, you may realize nothing that has ever happened for you was an accident. You are, in fact, where you are meant to be. You can be confused, frustrated, passionate and thriving all at the same time. Know that your struggles will likely help you become someone who is capable of receiving greater opportunities in the future while appreciating all of life’s offerings a little deeper in each moment’s time.

Related reading:

My journey toward my dream career, as told by an international student

The Balentine dream: How this DO takes on both a demanding career and a goat farm

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