Enjoy the Journey

Guest Commentary

“Leadership development is a lifetime journey, not a quick trip.” JOHN C. MAXWELL

By Amy Burkett
Person on a mountain silhouetted by a sunset


I  love that quote by New York Times bestselling author John Maxwell.  I’ve spent over 20 years reading his books and doing my best to apply the principles John teaches, but I’ve struggled with the concept of enjoying the journey.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed my life. But as a leader with a vision that has always been bigger than my current reality, I’ve spent much of my life in a hurry. In a hurry to get to the next phase of life. Can you relate?

I’ll give myself a bit of a break for the first nine years of my career. I spent those early years in commercial television as an anchor/reporter/producer. I lived in three different states, not making much money but with a passion for my craft and a huge desire to make a positive impact. 

I remember standing in our tiny eastern North Carolina apartment after getting probably my 12th rejection letter and telling my husband that I couldn’t wait until we get “there.” I didn’t know where “there” was, but I knew it would be great. I longed to settle down and stay someplace long enough for it to feel like home.

Leaders see farther than others see, which is a true asset. However, we can also get a little anxious to make our vision a reality, and sometimes that’s where the problems occur.

In Mark Batterson’s book Win the Day, he shares an interesting piece of research from a group of 50 people over the age of 95. They were asked one question: If you had your life to live all over again, what would you do differently? They had three main answers.

One, risk more.

Two, reflect more.

Three, do more things that live on after you die.

Batterson added one more to the mix.

 “Enjoy the day.”

He wrote, “Life is too short not to enjoy every age and every stage.” He went on to share, “If you don’t enjoy life now, you won’t enjoy it then. If you don’t enjoy life here, you won’t enjoy it there. Don’t fall into the when/then trap.”

I wish I had read that in my 20s. I’ve been guilty on more than one occasion of saying things like, “I’ll relax when I get that promotion, or finish the next project.” I call that “destination disease.”

I’m a planner and that means I’m always trying to look ahead. Anything that can go wrong often will, but
by prepping for possibilities I can often avoid problems. Until I can’t. I’ve learned that you don’t have to give one up to enjoy the other. You can plan and still enjoy every project, every day and every moment.

Here are three tips that help me. First, set a time for planning. I like Sunday nights. The first Sunday of each month I set a little time aside to prepare for the big projects ahead that month. Then, each of the following Sundays, I look to prepare for that week. This way, I can focus on each day that comes being fully present for all the ups and downs. 

My second strategy for enjoying life’s journey is I choose to see the positive in every situation. I call this choosing joy. Now, be careful here. I’m not talking about happiness. Happiness is an emotion that’s often contingent upon a situation. If my pants are too tight or it’s raining, I might not be happy about it, but I’m full of joy because I have a roof over my head or an umbrella in my hand to keep me dry and I choose what I eat so those pants won’t be too tight for long.  

Finally, be open to life’s detours. Life is filled with things that don’t go the way we planned. Those journeys down the side roads often lead to the most personal growth and can bring us the most joy, if we have the right attitude about them.

Amy Burkett
Amy Burkett is the host of WTVP’s Leadership Series, a multi-regional Emmy Award-winning journalist, author of “The 7D’s to Your Destiny” and a certified John Maxwell trainer, speaker and coach.