My Journey is My Destination

The reality of self work and progress is that it’s not linear, nor final. This is what I mean by the term: The journey IS the destination. This voyage architecting my best life never ends because there are always more updates that can be made. Instead of striving for some final destination, my best life is lived moment by moment.

When I take this premise a step further, I’m reminded that if I find that my journey has ended, and that I’ve gotten comfortable with my life and the people around me such that I’ve stopped questioning, that’s when I should have cause for concern.

To exemplify these thoughts, I’ll share with you a recent memory of a memory that made my knees buckle and brought me to tears.

The Memory of A Memory

It was December in Las Cruces, New Mexico. I was warming up lunch in the kitchen when the sensation that I was in a different time and place came over me.

Front Patio of a New Mexico house along my journey
The front patio of the house where the memory of the memory went down.

I stopped what I was doing, turned off the stove, then stood still for a second and shut my eyes. The moment that returned was one of the most simple, but impactful, of my life.

It was just about 12 years ago in early Spring. At that time, I was in the process of leaving San Antonio, Texas to move to Manhattan. Living in New York City had always been a dream of mine, and I was finally ready to make said dream a reality.

Before I could do so, I had to say goodbye to the life I built in Texas. Though I only lived there for three years, those years were some of the most important of my life.

During that time I started my career, made amazing relationships, and proved to myself that I could build a life away from the home I’d always known. But, despite all of these factors, I was certain I had yet to reach my potential. I also knew I wouldn’t be able to do so in SA Town (much as I loved it).

The memory is one that always makes me sad. In it, a work friend and I were walking to our cars after my last goodbye party (I had many, hehe). He stopped, looked me dead in the eye, and said, “Always remember. A good day in New York is a great day, but a bad day in New York is the worst. And… You can make it through anything.”

I recalled how, as he was saying these words, I could barely lift my eyes to meet his gaze. When our eyes did meet, I remember looking away from him as quickly as I could, fighting back tears. Then, we said our “goodnights” and “see ya tomorrows”, and I got into my car.

The Song of My Journey

When I turned on my car radio, the song came on; one of my favorites of all time. The refrain cut through me, its vice-like grip holding me in that San Antonio parking lot.

And I know I could look at anyone but you now
I could fall under the eyes of anyone
But you now, now, now, now
This is a list of what I should have been
But I’m not
This is a list of the things that I should have seen
But I’m not seeing
I’m just turning away from where I should have been
Because I am not anything…

The amount of shame and fear I felt when those words belted through my speakers overwhelmed me then. I remember my mind starting to unravel with thoughts like: What was I thinking leaving such a comfortable and wonderful life behind? What if I didn’t succeed? What if I was being ungrateful for throwing it all away!?

In present day, I had forgotten about lunch. Instead, I went to the living room, found my computer, opened YouTube and typed the song into the search engine.

I again started playing it, letting it, and all the memories and feelings that came along with it, surge through me. Re-living the angst, I fell to the couch crying uncontrollably.

I’m Still Not at The Destination

After a few moments I asked myself why the tears? Why was this memory still impacting me so?

My response was disheartening. It was because I still didn’t believe I’d reached my potential; my destination. I saw that I was still, after 12 long years, not “there”. I reasoned that if this was the case, maybe my leaving really WAS the biggest mistake of my life. Maybe I was a failure.

The Journey Is the Destination

It took a few moments of gasping for air and of reflection and self questioning, to see that no, leaving wasn’t a mistake. If I had stayed, I would not have stepped fully into myself as I am now aiming to do. I would have remained comfortable, yes, but stagnant.

That’s when I remembered: The Journey is the Destination. There simply is no “there” to get to; no finality to the journey. Instead each moment IS what I have been working towards, and each moment is what I need to make the most of.

I’ve written about this topic a time or two, and bringing all these facts to light again reminded me that I’m not a failure for not having yet reached my perceived destination.

Rather, the realization was seeing that if I settle into a comfortable state of being, a “there”, that’s when I should be worried.

Wait… What Did I Just Say?

Am I saying that settling into a comfortable life (whether that be made up of a partner, family, community, place, etc) is negative? Do I think building that kind of comfort into life means I failed?

Not. At. All!

It isn’t the building of comfort into my life that I think is problematic, but merely the letting go and forgetting to continually question and tweak my life that can be the issue.

This is something I didn’t really learn until I took all the distractions out of my life. Before I took the time to question who I am and what my beliefs are, then align my actions with those pillars, I took the easy road. This meant walking the path of those before me and assuming it would lead me to happiness (Spoiler alert: It didn’t).

I now see that questioning and even a healthy dose of self doubt which leads to questioning is one of the structures that enables me to architect my best life. Along with that questioning is continuing to tweak my actions to align with what’s truly best for me.

This process is the definition of architecting my best life.

Keep Questioning, Keep Tweaking

If I stop continually questioning and aligning aspects of my life, and instead choose to succumb to the fear which keeps me from digging deeper, I will never pull back the curtain to show me what needs fixing, nor will I ever conjure up the courage to make updates to improve my well being.

Those matters that need fixing may be the people I choose to spend time with, the activities I choose to partake in, or the thoughts I choose to believe, but whatever the curtain may be hiding, if I don’t pull it back and see the issues for what the are, the underlying issues that keep me from my full potential will remain.

Not only will they remain, but they will fester and expose themselves at the most random times. I feel not in control of my own life, and allow myself to become a victim of my own demise.

The hardest part is pulling back the curtain, because once I do, the issues can no longer be ignored. In fact, my inability to ignore the discontent with my life is exactly why I left SA Town all those years ago.

The Best Part

The most beautiful part about looking at whatever is behind that curtain is that, once I do, and once I investigate my feelings and resistance, I free myself up to see new ways forward, and I invite new and more fulfilling energies into my life.

The desert landscape of this Las Cruces destination.
Seeing what else is on the horizon…

In fact, after I unearthed my reasons for tears that day in Las Cruces, it was as if a 500 pound weight I’d been carrying with me for 12 years was released. I think about that moment in the parking lot now not with sadness or regret, but with confidence and knowing.

I know who I was and wasn’t then, and I know why I stepped on to the next part of my journey.

With this confidence in mind, I also am reminded to keep on walking, because if I stop, I stop truly living.

And… I kinda like living; moment by moment.

How Owning My Mindset Creates My Reality

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” – William Shakespeare, Hamlet

On my recent flight from Budapest to Warsaw, I witnessed a tender moment that almost brought me to tears. I was seated on the aisle of a three person row. To my left, a young boy sat by the window, and his father occupied the middle place. About an hour into the flight, just before we started our descent into Warsaw, I observed the father signal for the flight attendant to come over.

They exchanged a few words, of which I knew zero because they were either in Hungarian or Polish, then the flight attendant withdrew to the front of the plane. He returned several moments later with a small package, a toy replica of the airplane we were on. I noted how I’d never seen anyone actually purchase this type of good on a flight before. Doing so always seemed faux paux, but at that moment I couldn’t understand why,.

The man lovingly handed the item to the young boy who gratefully accepted it. I smiled to myself; warmed, and deeply moved by the sweetness of interaction.

I noticed my response, and then took a moment to investigate and break it down. I realized my reaction was based on me viewing the father, who was about my age, through adult eyes. I sympathized with his “being a parent” imposter syndrome that I hear from most of my friends with children, and took joy in assuming his self-doubt dissipated ever so slightly due to his son’s happy face.

I also empathized with the young boy’s point of view. I recognized the immense joy he must have felt after, what to an adult, would be such a simple act, and I let myself sink into the belonging and support he must have held in his young heart.

It was a great moment.

But… here’s the next thought I had:

I have no idea if this story is true.

Yeah, I know what I saw; a man about my age handed a toy plane to a young boy. But, I had no proof that they were even father and son! Did they really feel all the sweetness and joy I described to myself? No clue! The man could be a criminal kidnapping the boy and giving him a toy to keep him quiet, OR he could be a step-father trying to win the love of a spoiled-rotten young child.

I determined that in the end it didn’t matter. What I TOLD myself was my reality, and the story, true or not, brought me joy. This is when the realization happened.

I saw how a simple thought (whether it was true or not) had both changed my mood entirely and crafted my reality. Then it hit me! “What I think has the power to change my outlook on life. If I don’t take ownership of my mindset and what I think, I’ll never be able to architect my best life because someone else will always have power over me.”

Whew… it was a moment, and the resulting thoughts are worthy of some dissecting.

Let’s start with the term “owning my mindset”? To me, this means being in control of how I think about and react to the situations, good and bad, that life throws at me. It also involves being responsible for how I see the world, and the stories I tell myself about what I see.

If I tell myself bad stories about something that happened, my world will probably seem pretty negative. However, if I tell myself good stories, the world will not only seem more positive, but I will also feel empowered to feed the courage I need to make the big changes that make me my best self.

Front of a bookstore and cafe in Budapest
I could look at this as a simple bookshop, or I can be open to the magic of the working space and secret garden within.
Line of beer bottles on a counter
I could tell myself being 37 years old and drinking beers all day in Budapest is irresponsible… or I could look at it as a gift.
Burgers, blues, and beers festival grounds
If I get hung up on telling myself I should be DOING something productive, I might miss out on some great live music at the Budapest Burgers, Blues and Beer Fest.
Outdoor Beer Garden in the Park
Some may look at a Tuesday beer garden visit as unproductive, I chose to look at it as awesome.

One example of “owning my mindset” was last August when I found myself in Bakersfield, California. Shortly after my time there, I wrote a piece depicting my experience of the city.

The short synopsis: Lis arrives in Bakersfield with the perception that it’s a rough, and therefore undesirable, place to be. Hoping to make the most of it, she decides to open her mind and heart, and after a few days of owning her mind, she has experiences which exemplify the beautiful side of the roughness. End scene.

I went to Bakersfield with preconceived notions, and I could have held onto the viewpoints that it was a harsh, mean, and dirty place to be. I could have let those define my time in the city. However, when I took ownership of my thoughts, decided I wanted a positive experience, and then let life happen, I was able to see beyond the reputation to the good that surrounded the town. Instead of having a negative experience, I had quite a positive one, and even hope to go back one day.

Reflecting on this, I asked myself, “Sure owning your mindset works in these smaller moments, but if all that’s needed to change your reality is a change in your mindset, how can disease, despair, injustice, and poverty still be so prevalent in the world we live in? How can so many bad and unfair events still be happening to so many undeserving and innocent people? Can people really change their realities by taking ownership of and changing their minds?

I thought long and hard about this one, as it’s a line I don’t tow lightly, but after sitting with the discomfort of these thoughts, I saw the answer clearly. Yes, changing your mind IS all that’s needed to change YOUR reality, but changing your reality can’t change what happens to you. Let me explain.

It’s obvious, but I’ll say it anyway. Many events take place outside of our heads. People come into our lives and treat us poorly. We lose our jobs due to poor company management. We face injustice due to ignorance and hate. A storm hits our city and takes away our home and all we’ve worked for. These events are out of our control. No matter what happens in our heads, these events transpire.

The good news is it’s not what happens outside of you that defines your reality. Yeah, I said it! So what DOES define YOUR reality? How you think about and react to the external. That choice is 100% up to you!

A great example of taking ownership of one’s mind to shape one’s reality comes from Trevor Noah’s book, Born a Crime. The book is his story about growing up a mixed race boy in South Africa both during, and after, apartheid. (NOTE: it’s a great read! I highly recommend it!)

Throughout the book, Trevor’s mother is owning her mind, and thus defining her reality. A highly religious woman, she is someone who knows herself, acts from her inner being, and, when good or bad events come her way, accepts and views them through the lens of “God has his reasons”. She knows who she is, and her reality is never swayed. Of course, that doesn’t mean only good things happen to her.

After a harrowing near-death experience, Trevor sits over her hospital bed and says to her, “You’re lucky to be alive. I still can’t believe you didn’t have any health insurance.” “Oh but I do have insurance,” she said. “You do?” he replied. “Yes. Jesus.”

The woman didn’t dwell on the fact that she almost died, she owned her reaction and reframed it based on her deep seated beliefs and inner knowing. Because of this, she didn’t lead with fear, and she didn’t retreat from living to her fullest. She kept on going through life her way, no matter what happened outside of her. I’d wager that she lived the best life she could because of this outlook.

Violinist in Budapest
A violinist owns his reality by playing his finest despite very hot conditions.

Once I had this definition of “owning my mindset”, I started to ask myself, “How do I DO it?”

If you’ve been reading this blog, the first step should come as no surprise. Like Trevor’s mom in the above example, you have to first:

Know yourself

To know yourself, you must go into some sort of stillness.

This could be a formal meditation practice, or sitting still on the train or bus each day without pulling up something to distract you. It might mean taking 5 – 10 minutes before bed to reflect on your day and ask yourself what brought you joy, what took joy from you, where you showed courage, and where you chose compassion. Any of these options going into stillness in my book.

Saint Stephen's Cathedral in Budapest
I found stillness starring at this beauty.
Saint Matthias Church Square in Budapest
I found even more stillness on the walking tour through Budapest. Seeing these sights around me it was impossible not to stop and take them in.

In a video you’ve seen me mention before, The Art of Stillness, the speaker talks about moving to Kyoto, Japan from Manhattan. He notes how living in a place with limited distractions is “clearly not ideal for career advancement nor exciting for social diversion. But I realized that it gives me what I prize most which is days and hours.” He continues saying, “I’ve found that the best way that I could develop more attentive and more appreciative eyes was, oddly, by going nowhere, just by sitting still.”

However you can make the time and space for it, be still each day and you will no doubt be on the path to self knowing.

It’s important to note that being still isn’t the only method necessary for acquiring self knowledge, nor is owning your mindset and telling yourself good stories the only way to craft the reality you want.

Once you’ve got a stillness practice on lock and you’ve begun observing and owning your mind, you must begin to ask yourself an all important question. This question is imperative to creating an authentic reality:

Where am I lying to myself?

I lie to myself a lot. I believe I do this to protect my status quo way of thinking. As an example, when I was in Budapest earlier this Summer I was getting frustrated at not knowing the language. My lack of knowledge caused me to feel powerless in many of my experiences.

I then observed myself (through stillness) starting to blame this powerlessness on the world around me. I was faulting everything else for my lack. When I started to feel these frustrations I knew it was time to ask myself, “Where am I lying to myself?”

Hungarian street sign
What’s in 15 meters? I have no idea!
Budapest Building Facade
A facade is only that. We need to dig deeper.

I answered, “You’re the one giving your power away. No one here cares whether you know the language or not. Take back your power.” And that’s just what I did.

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” ~Alice Walker

The situations I encountered which I previously found frustrating didn’t decrease in number, but they DID decrease in frustration because I was now owning my reaction to them. Instead of being embarrassed or feeling vulnerable, I embraced my otherness and love of self. It was a simple mind switch, but it made a world of difference.

So yes, it really is as simple as changing what we think. How can I be so sure? Yeah, these examples are nice anecdotes, but how do I know this can happen out there in the “real world”? Because I’m living it!

Besides the examples I’ve provided so far, there’s the overarching narrative of my life. Oh yeah, I’m going there. Hold on to your hat!

As a woman raised in the rural United States, my entire reality/mindset growing up, what I was told my life needed to be in order for me to live my best self, was one of 1. find a husband, 2. have kids, and 3. be a dutiful wife, mother, and local citizen, and you will find happiness.. I had no other understanding of what life should be.

When I got to my early 30s and was nowhere close to this narrative I TOLD MYSELF I wanted to live, a dear friend said to me, “You know. Maybe you’re lying to yourself. You’re a person who will work to achieve anything you want. If you really wanted this life you say you want, you would have worked harder for it. Maybe it’s not what you want.”

Mind blown!

He was right, of course. Once I saw this narrative was not a reality I wanted, but rather a reality taught to me over the course of decades, I realized I needed to get my mind right and align it with my heart. Instead of beating myself up for being bad at finding a husband, a place to settle, or just bad at being a woman in general, I owned my perspective. I took ownership of my mind.

Now, here I am several years later, no longer faking that I want on that traditional path (though the ghosts of it linger, I won’t deny it).

This doesn’t mean only good things happen to me now that I own my mindset. Bad events do still happen, but now instead of letting them own my reality I take my power back and react to them in a much more centered, powerful, confident way. By no longer reacting from fear, I am directing my life, my way.

You can now see how owning my mind, and thus my reality, is the second structure needed to architect my best life. It’s a structure that, much like the first, any of us can work on no matter our environments.

By owning my mind I am in control of how I view and react to what happens outside of me. I’m no longer at the whim of others, or feel under the control of the powers surrounding me. I am my own master, which leaves me feeling afraid, alone, and powerless no more!.

On the contrary, I feel confident, assured, and empowered to act on my own instincts and desires. With these beliefs to anchor me, I can then take the hard, unconventional actions needed to walk my own path toward architecting the life that’s best for me.

It’s on me, no one else can do it.

At least… that’s what I like to think.