You know how you can hear the same thing over and over and then one day someone says it in a slightly different way and all of a sudden it’s like the most profound thing you’ve ever heard? Well, that happened to me recently.

I was listening to Pete Rollins on the Robcast, and he was talking about how it is not the thing we want that brings us joy it is actually the wanting of it. What!?

Okay, press pause here. Let’s clarify what I mean by joy; I’m not talking about fun. It’s not parties, trampolines, roller coasters, and belly laughs. I mean the laying your head down and night and knowing today mattered, grounded soul, head up shoulders back, heart satisfied kind of joy. Okay, unpause.

This idea brought to mind the phrase that it’s not the destination, it’s the journey. I have always (subconsciously) believed that the destination is the real prize but the journey can be fine too. But now Pete (I feel like we are on a first name basis) is telling me that the real life giving, inspiring, get-me-out-of-bed-each-day joy can’t be found at my destination. Am I the only one who is flabbergasted by this revelation? Are you shaking your head like I was at first?

The more I listened to him the more I realized that I already knew exactly what he was talking about. I had just only ever understood it in a foggy intuition sort of way, and now it was becoming crystal clear. The joy lies not just in the journey but in the struggle. Yes, you read that right, the joy lies in the struggle.

Let me illustrate what I am getting at with an example from my own life; I am struggling to build my business. I have only a few hours a week, and my four tiny people remain my top priority. I find myself often imagining what life will be like once I finally have time to get the ball rolling. When my practice is thriving, I can see all these amazing things that will happen for my family. It is easy to see my joy off in the distance waiting for me. There it is; I see a big house, lots of travel, some puppies, my kids get along all of the time, there is peace and fun and rainbows and unicorns. . .

But what about right now? Is “the struggle” all I have? Instead of seeing my joy off in the imagined future, I have started asking myself some version of “what is today’s gift to me” or “what will I miss about this time in my life when I finally arrive at my ‘destination’.”

In the context of my business, I recognize what a magical time this is. Right now anything is possible. Each new contact I make opens up more doors and ideas. I don’t have any employees to consider. I don’t have any shareholders or overhead. No one has any expectations. I am free to try out anything and everything that seems interesting. I can fail without it doing any damage. There are no eyes on me.

I am at a time when I just get to create. It is exhilarating. It is this process that I am in love with. It is the building, and the struggling for something I believe in that gives me joy because it matters.

I don’t have to succeed first. My guess is that I will spend my whole life looking for something new to fight for, not because I like victory, but because I love the fight. My struggle gives what I am doing meaning and purpose. If it came easy, I wouldn’t be content, at least not for long. We have to find our edges and push past them. It’s like taking the initial offer at a new job and always wondering if you could have gotten more. It’s the negotiation that allows you to feel comfortable that you didn’t leave any cash on the table.

It would be so easy to save all my joy until I have the six figure income or have hundreds of people attending my workshops or a waitlist for clients, but that’s a risky gamble. What if joy isn’t even there when I get there . . . and why wait? I want that joy now. I don’t want to waste today by waiting around for tomorrow. Tomorrow always just turns into another today.

You might be thinking to yourself, as I would be, “sure Sarah, but I have real problems. I can’t find joy in loss and grief and disappointment.” And I would say with a measure of solemnity that I get it. I have had my share of pain. But I still find my joy in the real problems (don’t forget, I am talking about joy, not fun). I have seen my depth expand, my capacity for empathy, for understanding, and diplomacy grow in a way that it would never have otherwise. I don’t want to live on the surface. I want to live down in the depths, because even though the pain is greater there, so is the joy.

Here’s a link to the podcast that inspired this post if you want to dig into this idea a little deeper and enjoy an Irish accent while you’re at it.

Photo by Camila Damásio on Unsplash