I read this excellent post on Tiny Buddha a couple of days ago, and it was so brilliant that I dwelled on it for hours later.
The crux of what the author Brad Alexander says is: Once you achieve a significant goal, you will not be the same person you were when you set out on the journey. The process of achieving your goal and the experience you have gained will have changed you. This is why the journey is the reward.
The concept completely resonated with me and I was instantly able to look back and see how my journeys had changed me, in ways more meaningful than even arriving at the destination:
From darkness to light: Before I was introduced to the practice of Nichiren Buddhism, I lived, what I call now, a blind existence. Unaware of the true nature of things, I believed in the shadows, created monsters out of wisps and mountains out of mistaken identities. In the journey to growing spiritual awareness, I became: (a) More compassionate towards myself and others. (b) Introspective in a healthy way, able to look at myself with kindness and objectivity. (c) Happier and more at peace with the world. (d) Comfortable with the silence, once my enemy but now my greatest source of divine strength.
From powerless to powerful: One of the greatest material shifts in my life has been my journey from being an unhappy, stifled homemaker to a working woman with, I am grateful to say, a fulfilling career. In the process, I was able to: (a) Apply and develop various inherent talents and skills. (b) Learn several more. (c) Teach them to others. (d) Reach out to a wider circle of influence, both through my workplace and through the publications I worked with. (e) Apply my still-growing wisdom and spiritual knowledge in real-time situations. (f) Develop a deep, unshakeable level of confidence in myself and in a sense of divine protection. (g) Feel more and more gratitude for the various gifts and blessings this job has endowed me with.
From stifled to free: Another momentous journey in my life has been the one from being stuck in toxic relationships to being able to make my own choices and assert myself. This is not just about letting go of a marriage; it is also about mending and investing in other relationships that once used to be stifling and limiting for me. In the process I learnt: (a) That love and hate are sides of the same karmic relationship. It is very possible to love and hate the same person at different points in your life. Once you realise this, you take your hatreds a little less seriously, and your loves a little more gratefully. (b) Any relationship can be beautiful and precious; it depends on your perspective and the amount you have invested into it. (d) You get the benefits of love by giving it away, not by waiting for someone else to fulfill you. (d) It is possible, and sometimes necessary, to sever ties with someone and yet wish them the best of everything in your heart. (e) That your only true responsibility is to yourself and your own happiness. As long as you are happy, all relationships fall in place. Do what it takes to be happy, and let go of guilts and expectations.
While the present evaluation points of all these journeys (I can’t say ‘end results’ because they’re still in progress) are delightful and heavenly in themselves, the process of becoming a better person and developing a deeper understanding of the universe has been an immeasurably valuable gift. It makes me look at the next big journey I must take (to lose 20 kg, sigh) with a little more optimism than dread. Who knows what lessons and growth await me there?