Friday, May 30, 2008

It's All About the Journey

Naturalgal had an interesting post up yesterday in which she talks about plugging along with things like weight loss or psych-med withdrawal, and Gianna had a post up the other day where she discussed dealing with pain, whether it be physical or emotional. Both of these posts have something to say about process vs. product, journey vs. destination.

So often, we focus on the Next Big Goal, whether it be losing thirty pounds, becoming medication-free or pain-free, buying our dream home, getting a new job, or whatever it happens to be. So focused that we forget about the journey--how we get there and what we do along the way.

When you're losing weight, the goal is to be fit and trim, but what so many people don't seem to realize is that reaching the goal isn't enough--if you've crashed the weight off, you haven't learned better habits along the way, and you aren't going to be able to maintain your ideal weight for very long. It makes more sense to shift your perspective to the journey and learn healthy habits that you can maintain for a lifetime. It's a slower process, but the results will be long-term.

The same applies to coming off of psych meds. The goal is to be medication free, and it may seem that the fastest way to achieve that is to just stop taking the medication. However, doing that can be dangerous, and withdrawal symptoms can leave you worse off than when you started. It's important to go slowly and allow your body time to adjust. Gianna has some excellent resources for psychiatric drug withdrawal at her blog, Beyond Meds.

As far as pain goes, focusing on how long it will be until the pain goes away can make the whole process seem so much worse. If you can shift your focus to making it through this moment, somehow that's not as hard to manage as making it through the next hour, or until the pain meds kick in, or until the headache is gone. I've used this shift of focus to help get me through the most horrendous migraines, and it does help.

What I'm really talking about here is mindfulness--being fully present in the moment rather than focusing solely on what's going to happen at some future time.

I have a friend who is always thinking about the Next Big Thing, which, of course, is going to make her life perfect. And when the Next Big Thing arrives and fails to do so, she is disappointed...until she decides what the next Next Big Thing is. She lives her life in the grip of a never-ending cycle of anticipation and disappointment. Sometime in the future when she's sitting on the front porch in her rocker covered with grandchildren, I wonder what she will remember about her life. That everything was a disappointment?

I would rather recall a series of moments, lived for what they are, than a series of disappointments.

8 comments:

Gianna said...

hi...good post...

If I learn nothing else from the journey that I'm on but to live in the moment, it will have been worth it. It is the greatest challenge I face now and so it seems obvious that that is what I am to be learning.

thanks.

Mark Krusen said...

I really liked this post. I too suffer from living in the past and waiting for that future event. I would just want to practice appreciating what this moment right now is bringing me. I think I'll take the dog for a little walk outside. We'll both enjoy the "moment" I'm sure.

Jazz said...

Gianna--
I've been coming to the conclusion that learning to live in the moment is probably one of the best things I can do for myself. I've always been a rather anxious person, and I think a lot of that comes from focusing too much on the what-if's. My mind has a frightening talent for extrapolating a worst-case scenario for even the most innocuous of situations.

Here's to both of us meeting this challenge!

Jazz said...

Mark--
I'm glad you like it.
It's hard to get away from dwelling on the past and worrying about the future...at least, it is for me. I think our dogs, who live very much in the now, have a lot to teach us if we are open to it. If we could all be a little more like them in that respect, the world would be a happier place!

Coco said...

Thanks Jazz, I needed to read that today

Jazz said...

Coco,
I need to reread this sort of thing frequently! It's so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day dramas and forget to be mindful.

naturalgal said...

Thanks for mentioning my post. When I first placed it I thought maybe it was a dud. Now I am glad it inspired people.
NG

Jazz said...

Naturalgal--
I thought it was an important post...people don't want to hear about how sometimes the only way to reach a goal is to keep plugging away, but in a lot of cases, that's the only way. And sometimes charging in and trying to do it all at once can be really harmful, as in the case of coming off of psych meds. I think that in our culture of quick-fixes, people are very stuck on the idea of instant change...and in a lot of situations, it just doesn't work that way.