“Life’s a journey, not a destination”
The well known quote, repeated daily across the world… But is it true?
The 20th century birthed a mantra to treat life as a straight line from birth to ‘the end’. You’re born, you go to school, you go to secondary school, college, get a degree from university, get a job, get a promotion, get another promotion, and another, and another, retire, die. This sounds a lot like living for a ‘destination’ rather than a journey. More recently, however, we have evolved to understand that this is ludicrous. It makes no sense to live a life we don’t wish to live just for the hope that at some point when we’re old and rapidly degenerating we will be able to retire and reminisce on the wonderful life we have lived… (not). Life is about the journey. It must be fulfilling and enjoyable throughout, rather than preparing for an (anti-)climactic end. This improved model is generally a step in the right direction.
But there is a problem. What about goals and milestones? This model of a continuous journey removes the final milestone from the equation. Must we no longer celebrate the success of our lives? And without anything to aim for, how do you measure your progress and achievement? It’s like shooting a bow and arrow into a vacuum of space, a never-ending flight, rather than towards the centre of a bullseye target. What’s the point?
Let’s take the ‘micro-journey’ of developing your writing skills through blogging, for example. Ultimately, in order to succeed, you need to enjoy the very action of writing (the journey). However, it’s going to be near impossible to maintain in the long term unless you are somehow measuring your progress. Daniel Pink explains there are 3 ingredients to motivation. In order for you to be truly motivated, you must have autonomy, purpose and mastery. Provided you’ve ticked the boxes of autonomy (you are choosing when you write, how you write, what you write about etc.) and purpose (you have a good reason why you write), you need to tackle mastery.
Humans, by their very nature, crave feedback. It is impossible to know that you are mastering something without feedback. Feedback could be anything; complimentary comments from your readers or just the monthly number of readers your articles get. The latter, is a measureable quantity. Measurable quantities make for perfect goals. It’s hard to measure the success of a qualitative goal like “get a positive response from readers”, but it’s much easier to measure how many people read your article or how many people engaged on social media. If we don’t set milestones and goals, it’s really hard to measure our progress towards mastery.
And let’s be honest, can you imagine writing a blog article every week and not caring when you reached a million monthly readers? No, that feedback matters, and it’s worth celebrating.
Clearly, a balance between these two contrasting mantras is needed. Whilst the journey is where you spend most of your time, setting, hitting and celebrating goals gives you the feedback that pushes you to the next level. Whether it’s writing a blog, running a business or playing golf; immersing yourself in the journey of the activity and celebrating milestones are both equally crucial elements for progress.
In life, you’re repeatedly shooting your bow and arrow. So keep hitting the bullseye, and celebrating every time you do. But remember to enjoy the shooting along the way.