The elevator doors opened onto the lobby of this remarkable hotel we were staying at in Milan, Italy.
We had just checked in and, while we were up in our room marveling at the stained glass windows and centuries-old furniture, several of the other guests in our tour had marched back down to the lobby to complain to the front desk clerk.
The hotel was originally built as a castle in the 12th century, then used as a monastery for several thousand years.
We were in awe of the history and charm, complete with its slanted hallways and laundry swaying in the center quad.
The unhappy tourists, not so much.
As I stepped off the elevator, I literally heard one of the women say, “This is nothing like America!”
Well no. That’s because this is Italy.
How often do we hear the phrase, “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey?”
We’re supposed to enjoy the journey — that will make us happy and fulfilled.
But that’s not quite right either.
What makes any trip worth it is not the destination or the journey.
Let’s face it, the destination can be overrated, but we’re told to get to the top faster than anyone else.
But then what?
A new destination.
A new goal, a new dream, a new possibility.
Perhaps a new achievement, accomplishment, or qualification. Achievement is fantastic, but it can be empty all on its own.
Mmm, that’s only half right.
Striving toward a goal, even if we enjoy the process of getting there, can still make us wonder, “what’s the point?”
No, what makes it all worth it — the destination and the journey — is the transformation we undergo in the process.
At the end of each journey, we must have become more than who we were when we began.
Not just accomplished more, but become more.
To be fulfilled, we must have evolved into someone we were not, and could not have been, without the journey itself.
It isn’t just the effort required to achieve the goal, but the growth we experience along the way, that makes us worthy of the accomplishment.
In order to transform, we must be willing to change.
Along the way, we must become more than we thought possible, stretching into a better version of ourselves.
Otherwise, we’re just serial achievers, collecting trophies and searching for the next win.
Transformation is what makes the journey’s effort entirely worth it.
This quote by David Viscott, M.D., which is thumbtacked and now faded on my vision board, has always been one of my favorites:
“There is nothing as exciting, or as wonderful as choosing a different goal, working hard, and succeeding. It’s not the success that is so important but the process of growth, of becoming more than one set out to be and, in the bargain, discovering a better part of yourself.”
Three days after arriving at that incredible hotel in Milan, we were seated for dinner with another couple on the trip.
We learned their luggage had been lost and they still hadn’t received it.
They said they were enjoying the freedom they felt — like teenagers backpacking through Europe and using the event as an opportunity to buy some new clothes.
The original tourists were disappointed with both their destination and the journey. Sadly, they chose not to grow into better people through the process.
I suspect they will be perpetually unhappy.
Whether you are learning a new hobby, earning a degree, or transitioning into a new career, your destination and your enjoyment of the journey are a choice.
So is transforming into the person worthy of such an auspicious goal.
Originally published at medium.com