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