Life is a journey – not a destination

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. 

If you want to share my journey and find practical help for your own, try my Daily Insights email subscription. 

Photos public domain from pixabay

What is choice and why does it matter?

Each of us is making hundreds of decisions every day, and every decision involves at least two or more choices. At its simplest, a decision is a choice between yes or no, but most of our decisions – even the little ones – are made between several available options. It takes energy and time to make a decision and to save us from having to attend to them all, we habituate decision making so that we no longer have to choose every time. Examples of habituated choices are the brand of coffee we buy, cleaning our teeth before bed, our route to work and the order we put our clothes on in the morning. These things require no thought, they are habits and they happen automatically, because we made a choice some time in the past and are comfortable with the outcome.

Why does choice matter?

Choice is essential for our well-being, as it allows us to feel we have some control over our lives. However, managing too many choices can be detrimental in terms of time, energy and focus. There is a large body of scientific study into choice and decision making, and the route to making good choices is well signposted. We are on average 22% more likely to make the (objectively) best choice if we can see all the options at once.

However, many people save time and don’t even look for the best choice. Rather, they will set their own standards for the decision, and will measure each choice until they find one that fits their standard. Then they stop looking. They may not even have considered the best choice at all. This is a useful shortcut for making a small decision, such as which food to buy, but in terms of innovation and advancement it isn’t helpful.

If you wish to become a person who brings fresh insights and innovation to your life, work and creativity, then you will need to learn to step outside of your own ideas and consider all of the other different perceptions. That way you can begin to see possibilities beyond your own decision making process. When asked “Why?” about a decision, “Because. that’s the way we have always done it!” is not a valid response if we desire progress.


Choice should liberate, not enslave. When faced with a number of good choices it is very easy to become paralyzed with fear, in case you make a bad decision. Realistically, all choices involve a trade off – for every road that is travelled, another isn’t. We need to understand that not all of our choices will be good for us; in that regard we all fail at times. But it is only really failure if we refuse to learn from the experience. The trade off can also be a “lesser of two evils ” scenario. Do we pick the healthy avocado, knowing it was grown on land that was once a rainforest?

Choosing the life we want to live

So, where does all this leave us in relation to making good choices in the bigger decisions of our lives? Firstly, I would like to point out that, often we get used to choosing between available options. You can have 10 flavours of ice-cream on offer and still not be able to choose your favourite.  All you can do is decide between available alternatives, none of which is what you actually want! This methodology seems to fall short, when it comes to choices about the way we live our one life.

Real choice involves making a decision based on what our heart desires, and then removing obstacles, until what our heart desires becomes one of our available options. Obviously, there will always be some desires that are beyond the realms of possibility for each of us – whatever I do, I’ll never be 5 foot 8 – but most things, however distant they may seem, are actually within our reach, if we choose to pursue them.


If we don’t have any idea what our heart desires, it is good to begin by slowing down, engaging with what is going on around us, practicing gratitude and developing trust. We all have an “I just know” sensor. Some people would call in intuition, gut feeling, inner voice or instinct, but in terms of starting a business, writing a book, having a baby or getting married or setting off to walk across North America, “just knowing” comes up all the time. Learn to recognise, work with and trust your inner voice, and just as importantly, listen when you get that feeling that something isn’t right.

Let me end with a reminder that even the big choices aren’t forever. Choose for today and rally courage to support you, but don’t look too far ahead, because nothing is ever certain and today is really all you ever have. So as Dr Joe Arvai noted in his TED talk on decison making, you are not an archaeologist raking over the past, but an architect constructing a new decision. Design and build. Make it happen.

via (118) How to make better decisions | Dr. Joe Arvai | TEDxCalgary – YouTube




Nuggets from the Self Acceptance Summit

The Self Acceptance Summit is now over, and only available to purchase via the link below. I said I’d send a few more little nuggets of gold that I panned from listening. Please note that these are my notes of what was said so may no be entirely quoted word for word. Here we go:

This first quotation was used in one of the talks. It’s credited to Carl Jung, and I liked it so much that I wanted too include it here: “That which remains (in our) unconscious, occurs in our lives as ‘fate’!” – brackets and emphasis mine.

“We don’t need to feel confident to make our voices heard. We only need to recognise the voice of the inner critic, observe its concerns for our safety and well-being and decide to proceed regardless, knowing we will be okay.”

“It is the human lot to fall short. It is our job to fall short again and again, and to attend to the growth that follows.”

“When we believe – through past rejection and pain – that there is something wrong with us that renders us unlovable. That is shame. It is the flip side of our desire to be loved.”

self acceptance.

“Shame is not your fault – but it is your responsibility.”

“Shame is a universal experience, but we experience it as though we are uniquely bad.”

“There is no wrong emotion. Emotions are not good, bad, right or wrong. We need to give ourselves permission to feel, whatever it is we feel. There is no “should” – even if we feel fly in the face of social norms (eg laughing at a funeral).”

“Criticism is the tax I am willing to pay for living my own life.”

Should is always where my pain begins.”

Self-Acceptance Summit

Self-acceptance is one of the most challenging areas of personal growth—yet when we focus on treating ourselves with kindness and compassion we become healthier, more creative, and far more effective in every area of life. With The Self-Acceptance Summit, you’re invited to learn breakthrough insights and techniques from some of today’s top researchers and teachers. Join us to:

  • Hear the latest and most empowering discoveries about self-acceptance from psychology and neuroscience
  • Identify the barriers to self-acceptance and learn how to dissolve them
  • Learn practical exercises for overcoming the toughest self-acceptance obstacles—including the inner critic, body shaming, and more
  • Transform your relationships with others by healing your relationship with yourself
    • Video: Kristin Neff, PhD, on “Easy Self-Compassion Practices to Use When Life Becomes Difficult”

via Self-Acceptance Summit

Good journeying,

Ali x


Self compassion demystified

“Simply put, self-esteem is an overall evaluation of yourself, in any given moment. If I believe that I am a good person and am performing well, I will experience high self-esteem. If I feel I’ve fallen short compared to what I could do or what others around me are doing, I will experience low self-esteem. We move through our days, vacillating in response to how we are judging ourselves and how we are stacking up against others.

Conversely, self-compassion is the capacity to be kind to yourself, especially when you are struggling. Self compassion allows for mental well-being, better metabolising of stress, lower anxiety and decreased depression.” 

Leah Weiss PhD [BeWell Stanford]

What is self compassion

Self compassion is the practice of kindness and generosity towards our core self. For most of us it is something that takes effort and practice. Indeed, it is more usual for our inner narrative to be one of self judgement, criticism, insult, unforgiveness and shame. 

Self compassion
Sometimes it’s really hard to love yourself

The good news is that with practice, it is possible to change this narrative for a kinder one, and there are many techniques and habits that can help us. 

These include practices like journaling in the imagined company of a supportive and loving friend, who will hold our thoughts and words with kindness and compassion. Meditation, mindfulness (or as Brené Brown calls it, courageous presence – so much better), gratitude diary, mirror work, gentle supportive touch and soothing self talk are all habits that cultivate self compassion. 

If you are looking for somewhere to begin, start with awareness. Notice your self talk as you go about your day. Don’t criticise or judge yourself for the content of your internal narrative, just take note. The next step it to attend to yourself in that moment, when your inner critic stands up to berate you. Offer yourself kindness, or if that feels impossible, offer the intention of kindness. 

Then you might want to choose one of the practices listed above, find out a little more about it, and begin to work it as a habit into your daily life. Whatever your narrative – the story you believe about yourself – it is just one story. Try creating a kinder story.

A great question to consider is:

What would you say to a very close friend, who was feeling fear/shame/self loathing and came to you for help?

Speak to yourself is the same way that you would speak to her.

Self compassion strongly correlates with feelings of well-being, physical and mental health, happiness and kindness towards others, so it is very much in our interests to pursue it. It’s a journey of small steps and without a finish line, but the further you travel, the greater the benefit will be you you and those around you. 

Good journeying. 

Ali x

“Our greatest suffering is in the place of ‘not enough’, and self judgement contracts everything. It’s hard to be intimate, spontaneous, relaxed or even present, if we are constantly noticing how we are falling short.”

Notes from a teaching by Tara Brach

“When you feel unworthy to sit at the human table, remember the truth is: you are not capable of generating an emotion that is not common to the entire human family. Everything you feel is the measure
of your belonging.”

Notes from a teaching by Elizabeth Gilbert



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Alison Campbell
Poet, author and fellow traveller, living the life I choose.

Dream of massive oaks but tend your little acorns


How big can you dream? I used to feed a cat for a lady who really knew how to dream big. I was fascinated by the walls of her home that were covered with inspirational quotes, dreams and plans for how to create an abundant future for herself. Needless to say, I have watched her go on to succeed and be exceptional in her field, as she has realised her dreams of abundance. Yes, her dreams were of massive, but boy did she tend to her little acorns.

I’m not good at this! I am not sure why, but I struggle to envisage prosperity for myself, in my work and relationships. I don’t (just) mean prosperity in terms money, I mean abundance and success in the things that I hold dear, such as my relationship with my children, a future romantic relationship and my writing. I have a repeating pattern, in that I have always chosen relationships where I wouldn’t experience abundant love, and I often feel that I deserve to be poor.


This is one part of my life that I really want to journey in… I want to choose abundance. I am pretty damn good at tending acorns. I just never expect them to grow into mature oak trees and I rarely dare to dream. The one thing I do know is that this kind of thing tends to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  What we expect for ourselves is most likely the ceiling of what we will attain.

I’m even uncomfortable writing about this, in case I am misunderstood. You see, I am at heart a minimalist, who is loving living with very few possessions, in a small space. I don’t want to accumulate and own stuff, and I actively don’t want a big house or a fast car or any of the usual trappings of wealth. But yes, I do want abundance in my life. To love fully and give freely, and to nurture little acorns into massive oaks. I want to dare to dream big dreams.

So, if like me, you are uncomfortable about creating aspirational expressions of the abundant life you desire, dare to ask “why?” I say this because I want you to succeed in the life you choose for yourself, just as surely as I want the same for me! But I have a creeping realisation that I need to learn how to joyfully choose abundance, if I am ever going to fully live the life I choose.


As a first step I am going to commit to creating a Post-it journey plan to move me from A to B, where A is now and B is the place where I am dreaming big dreams and choosing abundance in my life and relationships. I suppose in simple terms I mean, I want to choose to live with an open heart and open arms to receive – and share – a plethora of good things. I want to thrive. Watch this space.