Cam Taylor

Be inspired. Be focused. Be tenacious.

What 1,800 Miles Taught One Man About True Happiness

Life is a journey, not a destination. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emerson’s quote in theory sounds so solid. In practice, however, making life about the journey is hard, especially for people who enjoy setting and reaching goals and getting things done!

Thankfully, there are people who can inspire us to help keep us on track. The story I share today speaks of incredible endurance and perseverance but at the heart, is filled with a life lessons we can all learn from.

Ben Saunders Retraces Captain Scott’s Ill-fated Journey

In 2013, Ben Saunders and his teammate Tarka L’Herpiniere, set off to complete Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s failed 1912 polar expedition. The journey took four-months and extended 1,800 miles round trip from the edge of Antarctica to the South Pole and back.

To hear Ben describe the journey sends chills down your spine. He and his teammate walked the entire route and pulled sleds that weighed when loaded, over 400 lbs. The temperatures were extremely cold, the terrain difficult and the wear and tear on their body relentless.

The journey was equivalent to completing 69 marathons back to back in 105 days. They only had one day off — due to bad weather.

The trip when it all over, deeply impacted Ben in ways even he was not expecting. He describes himself as being forever changed on the inside, while on the outside, able to recover reasonably well. The journey humbled him as well as challenged him. When it was all over, there were inadequate words to describe all that he felt.

Ben had two contrasting perspectives. He describes those two perspectives this way:

Perspective #1: “That I’m standing here telling this story is proof that we all can accomplish great things, through ambition, through passion, through sheer stubbornness, by refusing to quit — that if you dream something hard enough, it does indeed come to pass.”

But then he says this:

Perspective #2: “But I’m also standing here saying, you know what, that cliche about the journey being more important than the destination? There’s something in that. The closer I got to my finish line, that rubbly, rocky coast of Ross Island, the more I started to realize that the biggest lesson that this very long, very hard walk might be teaching me is that happiness is not a finish line, that for us humans, the perfection that so many of us seem to dream of might not ever be truly attainable, and that if we can’t feel content here, today, now, on our journeys amidst the mess and the striving that we all inhabit, the open loops, the half-finished to-do lists, the could-do-better-next-times, then we might never feel it.”

Ben puts it another way…

Fulfillment and success aren’t finish lines you might cross one day if you push (or indeed pull) hard enough — they are moment-to-moment decisions.

The bottom line

When you look at your goals, dreams, to-do lists, open loops, things you’re striving to achieve — is your happiness wrapped up in the destination of achievement? Getting to that finish line? In completing that project or to-do list? If it is, Ben’s experience would say it you won’t find lasting happiness there.

Life will be richer if we can enjoy the journey, be content now, and not fixate on the finish line alone. Go ahead and push or pull but don’t loose sight of what will give life deeper meaning.

What can you do today to enjoy the journey and not just fixate on the destination?

Source: TED talk: To the South Pole and Back

About Cam Taylor

Life and leadership coach, transition & change specialist, husband, dad, leader, writer, life long learner.

One Reply

  1. Dana Yaffee

    Enjoyed the post about thr journey!

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