Words for the Weary: Gratitude

Gratitude for the journey gets you closer to your goal

Ambition is what drives us to success, but to enjoy the process of getting there we must learn to be grateful. Within the university, you can find some of the most focused and dedicated people around; amidst the foot traffic, the crowded coffee shops and busy keyboards, there is a noticeable amount of energy.

We all have some sort of goal that inspires our efforts. But we often think of a goal as something that sits at a distance from us. In order to close that distance, we make sacrifices, take risks and pour ourselves into our work. The fact that we have what it takes to be so disciplined is amazing, but we often fail to be grateful for this ability.

Having the will to progress is proof that you are in motion towards your goal. If we only focus on how far we are from it, we will miss the details which characterize our success.

It can be difficult to recognize our progress when we are fixated on a result that sits far away from us; the distance can feel too great.

Athletes are exercising to beat personal records; students are trying to generate ideas that stand the test of criticism; musicians are searching out the techniques that will lead to the perfect note. In all of this activity lies the kind of strain and growth worth pausing to document.

What it takes to achieve these goals is meaningful in itself. It can be difficult to recognize our progress when we are fixated on a result that sits far away from us; the distance can feel too great. Even small victories can start to feel like just another reminder of the gap between where we are and where we want to be. Focusing on the distance can cost us the feeling of fulfillment that comes with small improvements.

There is joy to be found in moving towards your goal, subtle adjustments and improvements can inspire and satisfy. This kind of slow evolution happens within days, weeks and months. Capturing the details of this evolution is the key to realizing the influence that a small step forward can have.

Focus on what is in front of you, not what is far away. What skill sets, what ideas, what words of encouragement have you picked up on the journey toward your goal? To answer this on a regular basis will teach you much about what it is that you are aiming to achieve. You are not just en-route to a destination; you are being shaped into someone worthy of it along the way.

What is happening to you as you approach this goal is no small matter, but you will miss it if you do not make a habit of being grateful. A new practice will help you keep track of subtle changes. Make a ritual of writing a thank you note weekly. It can be to a real person, or a place or an abstract idea. You might write a thank you note to an encouraging friend or to a desk that you’ve always brainstormed at. You can give this note away or keep it for yourself. The point is to reflect on the improvements that you are grateful for, those moments of noticeable growth.

Giving some attention to what you are grateful for on the route to your goals will help you stay in touch with the momentum of success that you build as you go. Throughout the process, what is important is identifying the specific ways you now resemble what you aspire to be. This will help you appreciate who you are at every stage in the process.

Kylan Hall is a senior communication major and the Opinions Editor for The Syrinx

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