Ask any productivity coach about the importance of goals, and they will surely tell you that without them, you are doomed to mediocrity. Doubtless, goals are important, as they help to maintain our vision and drive. Perhaps because of this, however, we often get fixated on end goals or outcomes in life, rather than concentrating on the journey. But life is a journey – not a destination, and the journey, not the end goal, is the point.
Life is a journey
Many of us approach life in much the same way as we approach a day trip to a major city. I live in the North East of England, and to spend a day in our capital city (London), requires a train journey of around 3 hours. It’s a trek I don’t make very often, as I have a strong pull towards the open countryside, but when I do (perhaps because of its rarity value), I always see the train ride as an exciting part of the day.
I spend the time enjoying the journey, looking at the passing ‘world’ through the window, eating, drinking – and chatting (unless I am travelling alone). The day out begins when I leave the house in the morning, and it’s all to be enjoyed, not just whatever has drawn me to London in the first place. However, I have noticed that I am a rarity in this regard, as often my fellow train travellers seem almost unaware of the journey itself, filling the time with sleep, entertainment or work. Of course – I’m making a comparison here – and fully understand that there are times when a train journey is needed as catch up time, or workday office space.
I’m not making a judgement at all – just creating a picture of how we often approach life. How many time do we think or say – “I will be happy when…” or “I’ll deal with this when…” and so on? For me it’s often “I’ll lose weight when…” We miss the journey because our eyes are fixed on the end goal that we hope will come along and change our life for us. But happiness and problem solving doesn’t lie in the destination, it comes through the process of embracing the journey.
Taking a road trip
Journeying through life is more like a road trip than a train journey. I’ve been on a few extended road trips – twice overland from the North of England to Romania, and once driving my son and two of his 17-year-old friends around Europe. All were wonderful experiences, but the travelling was a fully integrated part of the whole. This was partly because each leg of the journey was simply a stepping stone to something else and also I think that any element of “Are we there yet?” would have driven us mad! The end destination of a road trip is actually home, which marks the end of the trip. So to with life; the end destination is death, which also ends the journey.
Life is a journey where ever day has the potential for covering new ground, seeing with fresh eyes, exploring new territory, learning and growing. This was just how it felt to be on the road trips. Somehow we seem to settle into “Life – the commuter train journey”, same old, same old, all too easily. If I have one overriding goal in life it’s to maintain the road trip potential in my everyday, and that’s why I use a lot of journeying language.
Not a destination
Fixating on end goals and outcomes, even small ones that crop up every day, can be a technique that helps us feel organised and in control. However, no human need has ever been fixed by an outcome – it is the process of choice and change within us that brings us growth and healing. And that’s why life is a journey, because without the journeying we become stuck and frustrated.
Of course I do set intentions and goals, but I see them as sign posts or stepping stones. They help me to keep on track, or overcome obstacles, but I never let them become my destination. I want to be able to practice choice and change every day, and I want to be able to grow and evolve and all importantly, change my mind and direction when I feel that’s right for me.
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Photos public domain from pixabay