On one of his more arduous hunts, after days of patiently tracking (and weeks of planning before that), crawling through the dirt and enduring difficult conditions, Theodore Roosevelt finally got the bull caribou he had been chasing. It was a big animal, felled by several shots in a chaotic confrontation.
“It was one of those moments,” he later wrote, “that repay the hunter for days of toil and hardship; that is if he needs repayment, and does not find life in the wilderness pleasure enough in itself.”
What he was saying is something we all know but constantly lose sight of in life: Yes, the rewards are nice, but the process of earning them is plenty wonderful too. A hunter who only enjoys bagging their quarry is likely to be a disappointed hunter, nine times out of ten. More importantly, they are a blind and deaf hunter who needlessly misses out on the majesty of life outdoors.
Too many of us are like this in all aspects of our lives. We are so focused on an end-result, on achieving the success or fame or wealth we crave that we don’t even notice the little pleasures of the experience and the people around us. The Stoics speak constantly of returning to the present moment for a reason. They practiced their power of observation for a reason too--so they wouldn’t miss out, so they would truly see and feel and take in just how lucky they were to be alive. By practicing the dichotomy of control, they also knew that the journey is up to us, while the outcome is not. As a hunter, Roosevelt understood this innately: Getting the kill--that’s luck. Listening to the birds sing, breathing in the forest air, enjoying the time away from the city--that’s up to you.
Find pleasure enough in what’s present today. Don’t get distracted by the outcome you crave (or fear). Don’t demand repayment for the struggle--because the struggle is where the true rewards live. The weight is supposed to be heavy--that’s where strength comes from. Your lungs are suppose to burn--that’s where speed and energy come from. Cherish these things while you can, while it’s still in your control.