Holiday Closure: All Easton Schools Closed Dec.14 & morning classes cancelled Dec.15

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April 10, 2023

Learning To Enjoy The Journey

Ryan Otto

Learning To Enjoy The Journey

We’ve all seen the quotes.

It’s about the journey, not the destination.

Life’s a journey, not a destination.

I have seen those quotes many times and they had always annoyed me. As a competitive triathlete, I trained several times a day for many years to perform and win. While racing does have a journey associated with it, I was so laser-focused on the race itself – and my performance – that I likely overlooked the journey to the start line and what it had to offer.

I felt those fluffy quotes meant that people didn’t care how they performed or weren’t good enough to have challenging goals, so they just plugged along aimlessly and slowly, content with mediocrity. That made no sense to me. In triathlon, my destination could be several things, such as qualifying for a championship race, hitting a time or personal best in an event, winning my age group, or being on the podium. If I performed well in a race then I was satisfied, but if I didn’t, I felt like it was pointless. It took me a long time, but now I see that those seemingly cheesy quotes are correct.

[Wake Up, Show Up, Wind Down: The Journey]

Often it takes a big event for us to realize things in life. Hindsight is always 20/20. For example, you lose your job and, upon reflecting on it, realize that you were not giving your best. Or you get divorced and after reflecting on the experience, you realize the things that you contributed to the relationship ending. Then (hopefully), we take these lessons learned into the next job or relationship.

Ryan Otto. Image: Micheal Phipps.

My own experience involved feeling a crunch in my knee that didn’t go away. The MRI revealed cartilage damage, and my competitive running and triathlon days were likely over.

Without competition, I no longer had my typical destination. Without a destination came a short period of confusion, disappointment, and a mild identity crisis.

While this posed a challenging time, it allowed me to slow down and reflect on things. I didn’t want to slow down, but because I had to, I experienced a journey and growth like I hadn’t before.

When the focus shifts

I began to focus on new destinations: like running again, however, that looked. Something in my mind shifted. Rather than being overly focused on running, I became focused on the journey of running again. Yes, I still wanted to run and race, but that seemed so far off that learning and growing became more important. I knew I had to take time and not rush it, or I would just set myself back. I just had to be present in the journey, which proved to do much more for me than just being able to run again.

Those quotes that used to annoy me and make me feel that people were soft now made sense. I have always welcomed and loved a challenge, but this time I also welcomed the journey.

An important lesson I’ve learned through life is that iron sharpens iron; in other words, going through hard things makes you stronger. A journey is usually challenging and can take people out of their comfort zone. Many people, including myself when I was younger, don’t like to be out of their comfort zone.

However, from what I have learned and experienced, the comfort zone is where our motivation dies. The comfort zone is where our dreams die. The comfort zone is where our life flashes before our eyes and nothing happens. Embracing the journey takes us out of that comfort zone.

[The Mindset Problem]

Ryan Otto. Photo: Micheal Phipps.

Getting out of our comfort zone

I walked into Easton in July 2021 and joined after one kickboxing class. I saw the shirt progression on the wall from white to black. Of course, my instinctive competitive nature compelled me to look past all the shirts until I got to the black one. Then the part of me who has evolved through many journeys tossed that thought away.

I focused on the things that I would learn on the journey to that black shirt. I thought of how the journey to whatever shirt would make me a better athlete, fighter, and person. I wouldn’t become a better athlete, fighter, or person by wearing a different color shirt, but I would gain those things through the journey.

When you look at the shirts in the Muay Thai room or the belt progression in the BJJ room, view it as a journey. Don’t just look forward to the next promotion and miss the opportunities right in front of you. Be present in the journey and you’ll be better and stronger and learn every step of the way. You’ll also be challenged every step of the way, both mentally and physically.

These challenges are good for us. They get us out of our comfort zone and expand our minds and body. Iron sharpens iron.

Whatever the journey happens to be — going through a divorce, a job change, taking on a new hobby or sport, learning to play an instrument — there are valuable lessons that journey’s challenges provides.

If someone is good at something, they have put in the time and effort and have gone through a journey of some kind to be where they are. You can do the same thing. Be present, embrace the journey, and see what you become on the other side.

[My Journey To Blue Belt]


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