We all imagine how great life will be once we cross the finish line, but are we missing out on enjoying all the great stuff happening right now?

Since I hired a wellness coach a little over two years ago, I’ve had a number stuck in my head that I’ve been trying to reach as my final Finish-Line-Magic-Number-Goal-Weight. It’s that number that for me represents pushing through the finish line tape and finally being DONE. After two years of working to change unhealthy eating habits, using tools like My Fitness Pal, and intensifying my exercise routine, I’ve made considerable progress toward that Finish Line Magic Number. But for nearly six months,  I’ve been frustratingly stuck at a place that fluctuates from five to eight to three pounds away from that Number and I have felt my patience wane.

Whether we’re talking weight loss or not, I tend to be a results-oriented, finish-line focused kind of person who strives to “get there,” wherever “there” may be as soon as possible so I can check off the box and move on to the next event. That’s why when a friend sent me a notecard recently with “The destination is not as important as the journey” emblazoned on the front I was annoyed. And baffled. Did this friend not know who I was? Did she not understand how ludicrous I thought her sentiment might be? The notion that the ability to cross something off as “done” was less important as the process of getting there was perplexing and downright ridiculous to me. 

But then I paused and considered some of the journeys I’ve been on. My family has regularly road-tripped to various places in our beloved minivan and our most frequent destination has undoubtedly been Walt Disney World, a 7-hour car ride south from where we live. Seven hours is not an insignificant amount of time to be in a vehicle with three children, so when we travel, I am intensely focused on reaching our destination. Actually, everyone in the car is. That finish line that awaits us on Western Way where giant Mickey and Minnie gates greet us with their white gloved outstretched arms is what we all envision as we set out. We look forward to reaching that endpoint because we have expectations about what lies ahead for us when we get there, when we cross that line. We anticipate how we will feel. There will be laughter, excitement, silliness and joy. We expect to celebrate because our journeying is over and our enjoyment of the new place we are in can begin. 

 What our family looks forward to most during our Disney stay is the opportunity to connect with one another, to create and share new rituals for fun, discover things to laugh about, and to learn new information about each other.  (Clearly, the Smiths have bought into the Disney advertising—if you don’t feel that way about WDW, I totally get it, that’s a whole other post I’ll write later).  But it took me about ten years and twenty times making this trip to realize that just as important as walking down Magic Kingdom’s Main Street, USA, and gazing at Cinderella’s Castle, is what happens on the ride down. 

Before we get in the van to begin our journey, there is always a discussion about what movies will be watched on the trip.  While this mattered a little more before all the kids had their own iPhones and alternate entertainment options, there is still consensus that enroute movies are to be watched together on the minivan screen. So, negotiations must be made as to what those will be. This inevitably results in conversations about favorite films and laughs about terrible movies they used to love. As we travel down I-75, we often reminisce about our past visits and discuss favorite events or recount infamous Smith family mishaps like “losing” our middle child at the waterpark for an hour or the time the same kid broke his arm inside the Disney candy store. There is laughter and joking, petty arguing, and debate.  That is, what happens along the way to our final destination is what we’re striving for at our Magic Kingdom finish line: we’ve connected, shared, learned, and discovered all before we’ve crossed the state line. The point is, we don’t have to wait until we arrive at our Disney destination to enjoy what it is we’re looking forward to.  There is so much to enjoy now.  

On the road and in real life  we figure out once we do arrive to that place we’re headed to, it’s not like we just stop and we’re done.  Nope–we’re constantly on to the next things. We realize that actually, there are no real finish lines, even after we’ve arrived at our journey’s end,  we simply keep going, and in so doing discover there are always more lessons to learn, and always more discoveries about ourselves and others to make. 

And that is why I strive to be patient with myself on this journey to Finish-Line-Magic-Number-Goal-Weight. It is why I know my friend sent her card out of love and kindness. She mailed off that note as a reminder and encouragement to me to be kind to myself, and to enjoy the process of getting where I’m going.  Yes, I know when I reach that Magic Number I will celebrate. Cue the Mickey-eared shaped confetti, fireworks, parade and all.  It will be a day to mark the realization of hard work and perseverance, of choosing to not give up. That’s a big deal. But just as big is what I have learned and celebrated along the way, and how I’ll keep growing and evolving after breaking through the tape.