Journey vs Destination

There’s nothing more natural than using path- and travel-related metaphors. We’ve all spoken of “long roads ahead”, “heading in the right direction”, or “taking a wrong turn.”

The destination is like a dot on the map, it’s the desired end-state of all our striving. If you’re trying to lose 20 pounds, then 20 pounds lighter is the destination. Thinking about the destination highlights the difference between where we are now and where we want to be: Knowing there is an ideal state and they are not there yet, that gap motivates people. It’s not just the beauty of our goal, it’s the pain of not yet having achieved it.

Journey metaphors, by contrast, draw a line from your current state to your future state and illuminate what it looks like. Thinking about the journey calls our attention to all the things we’ll need to do, the obstacles and milestones, the highs and lows along the way.

Big goals can be exciting, but they don’t come with directions. It’s easy to say “I’m going to get into great shape this year,” but that doesn’t tell us what to do tomorrow. Therefore, thinking about the journey is especially important right at the beginning.

Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.

Arthur Ashe

Focusing on the journey also helps us to map out the milestones and sub-goals that we’ll need to reach along the way. At the outset, focusing only on the final destination can be discouraging if we don’t have a clear path to get there. Setting out milestones gives us immediate direction, allows us to experience small successes along the way, and builds in opportunities to review whether our companions and equipment are still right for the next stage in the journey.

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where—” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“—so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

–Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

When you’ve achieved a goal, take some time to reflect on how you got there. Think of the ups and downs on the way and link the behaviours that you used with the positive change that you experienced. To make this reflection more powerful document your progress along the way. Take photos if it’s a physical change. Journal and take notes along the way, the more personal the better. If you haven’t recorded your journey, it’s still worth doing. Close your eyes and think for a few minutes about what happened last month. What changed in the last month? These are the things we want to make a connection to using this journey mindset. Either way, the key is to find a sense of positive growth and link it to the behaviours that helped you achieve your goals.

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