I remember going on road trips as a child. I would insist on sitting by the window and peering out to see the road pass by. One of the things I enjoyed most was looking at the milestones as they went by.  For the adults it was about how close we were to our destination. For me, they had a different meaning all together. Each milestone meant something to me. One would mean that I could open my snack box and binge on chips and juice. Another meant it was my turn to select the game we were going to play. I looked forward to each milestone with equal enthusiasm and almost regretted when the journey came to an end.

Then I became the adult driving the car. The destination became more important and the milestones lost their meaning. I stopped looking out for them. When I did come across one,  it would just remind me of how far my actual destination was. It would make the journey look endless and the destination almost always too far. I started berating myself for being too slow and making very little progress. I started looking at other vehicles and comparing my speed with them. I assumed that they were much closer to their destination than I was and that I probably would never arrive where I wanted because I lacked the skills.

Over time the destination became diabolic. Every time I thought I had reached it, it would seem to move even further ahead. Just when I felt I had arrived at the place where I wanted to be it would turn out to be just a milestone and not the destination.

Then the car I was driving broke down. It had over heated because I had pushed it too hard without a thought. I stopped on the side and found a milestone hidden behind the shrubs reminding me of my childlike perspective of life.

When did I lose this perspective? Probably the day i linked happiness to some destination point in life. The day I told myself, “I will be happy when I get a new job” or when “I get a bigger salary” or when I buy a new fancy car or have a house to my name.

I lost that perspective the day I linked happiness to my achievements. The day I believed that I have to ‘do something’ and ‘prove my worth’ to be happy.

All I focused on was how far I was from my destination of happiness. I ignored the little milestones along the way to my goal. Those little things in life that tell me I am in the right direction, that tell me that I am moving ahead and not going in reverse.

I remembered when I had a huge assignment to do. I told myself that I would be happy when this would be done and it would mean that I am good at what I do. I was so focused on this goal that I did not see the milestones. Day by day the task looked overwhelming and I started losing the will to continue. I wanted to give up and turn back. I lost focus. Worse I lost confidence and the motivation. There came a point where I felt I would feel happy to just finish two pages. Then there was a miracle! At the end of those two pages I felt happy. I felt that I had achieved something. I stopped and smiled at my work. Lo and behold I felt strangely happy, motivated and charged up. Like I could do the assignment and so much more.

I remember a man who bought a new car. He took his parent out for a drive. He did not see the smiles on their faces. He did not eat the sweets his mother had made. He did not see the happiness of this milestone. Why? Only because he thought of wanting to buy a bigger, more expensive car which would definitely make him happy. What he did not realize was there were bigger and bigger cars that could chase his happiness away.

Another young actor thought he would be happy when he got a good role in a play. He ignored the milestones of a small role being appreciated, a standing ovation for a brilliantly said dialogue or an impactful street play.

A woman thought she would be happy when she had the perfect figure. Every day on the weighing scale she would curse the long journey. All this while she missed the milestones of being able to climb stairs without being out of breath, of better sleep and the glowing skin that came along the journey.

A young couple equated happiness with finally being together forever. They ignored the milestones of that happiness of late night phone calls, moments together and waiting for each other.

We all tend to set targets for our happiness. We often confuse happiness with the achievement of these targets without realizing that the targets are a mere illusion. A mirage. They seem to move ahead as soon as we reach them. The more we pursue them, the further they seem.

Happiness lies not in the achievement of these targets but in enjoying the smaller milestones enroute to them. It’s the smaller moments of happiness that fuel the journey ahead. These smaller milestones were set to guide me, to make me realize that happiness like good things comes in small packages.

Dr. Gauri Nadkarni Choudhary
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