These wise words were uttered by the American writer, philosopher and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson and have been repeated by countless people over the years, influencing the perception of life and its meaning. But what does it actually mean? Let's take a look.
The meaning behind the quote
When Emerson wrote these words, he meant to express that life is about more than just achieving our goals or being successful.
It's more about the experiences we have along the way - all the good and bad moments that make us who we are today. It's about learning from our mistakes and celebrating our successes, no matter how small. As Alan Watts used to say in his various paraphrases of this quote:
"We looked at life in analogy to a journey, a pilgrimage, that had a serious goal at the end, and it was about reaching that goal, success or whatever, maybe heaven when you're dead. But we missed the mark all along the way. It was a musical thing and you were supposed to sing or dance while the music was playing."- Alan Watts
What we can learn from this quote
This quote essentially reminds us to enjoy each moment of life as it comes. Don't get so caught up in trying to reach your highest goal that you forget to pause and appreciate the little things. This may sound like a platitude but that doesn't mean it doesn't apply.
Don't get me wrong: goals are good. More than that. They are enormously important. Without goals, you will waste your potential.
But we must not fix our gaze mindlessly on the future, but keep our eyes on the present. After all, it is the only thing we can be certain of.
The quote further also encourages us to embrace change instead of fearing it. Because if every day brings something new, then it means that there is something special hidden in every experience, waiting to be discovered by us. And if we learn to appreciate even one thing every day, then we can begin to enjoy life instead of just doing things.
I regularly catch myself putting my focus on some goals and forgetting to enjoy the moment. That's not bad. As long as I then try to consciously perceive the moment. And I succeed more and more often.
By the way, Lukas has an article for you here, about how to learn to enjoy:
Life is full of surprises; sometimes those surprises are pleasant and sometimes they are difficult, but no matter what, remember that life is a journey, not a destination.
Take some time each day to reflect on where you've been and where you want to go, and find joy in everything you do along the way. With this attitude, you can make sure that when you reach your destination - whatever that may be - you've enjoyed every step along the way.