Photo courtesy of Julie Ann Williams.

Photo courtesy of Julie Ann Williams.

If I could give myself one piece of advice at 23, it would be this: 

Your life is all about the path.

If you’re wondering what I mean, let me explain…

My husband and I have a black Labrador retriever named Audie, after Audie Murphy—one of the most decorated combat soldiers of World War II (my husband’s idea).

And when I say Audie loves to walk, I mean she LOVES to walk. She knows the words leash, walk and park, which means my husband and I spell at our house… more than we care to admit.

Recently, Audie was having the time of her life walking with me while I listened to a podcast. It was dreary and drizzling—and you’d have no idea by the joy that radiated from this dog.

I was on my third episode of Adventures in Happiness in three days. 

This particular episode was about philosophy (oh great), particularly stoicism (ugh). Luckily, it wasn’t your typical philosophy 101 kind of discussion.

And there it was… they were discussing how there is no there.

As Audie was trotting along my side, I was having a philosophical moment. The realization? I have never really arrived anywhere.

Earlier in my career, I was willing to give the whole corporate ladder a try.

Because, I thought, this is what you’re supposed to do. You’re supposed to work really hard and get promotions.

So I worked hard—really hard—for two years. In my head I was repeating, "You have to work hard to get what you want." Or saying things like, "This is what you're supposed to do." And, "You'll have so much fun when you get there."

And when I got the promotion, I thought… Wow, now I’m there! I’ve arrived! I’m worth something!!

What I didn’t expect was how quickly those great feelings would fade.

All that was on the other side of that promotion was to work toward the next promotion.

And psychology tends to agree. In Happier, Tal Ben-Shahar discusses the work of a psychologist named Daniel Gilbert. According to him:

“We think that a new house, a promotion, or a publication would make us happy, when in fact these achievements only lead to a temporary spike in our levels of well-being.”

Ultimately, I think my dog is doing something right. When I look down at Audie on our walk practically smiling, I'm reminded: It really is all about the path because that's all there is.