Why Life is a Journey Not a Destination
I love reading thriller novels. The stories usually have a complex plot with twists and turns that make you eager to know how the book will end. But if you just skip to the last chapter, you certainly lose the beauty and satisfaction of the story and do not fully grasp what really happened in it. The reality of life is very similar. That is because life is a journey not a destination.
No one knows how our journey is going to end. Having a life plan with things we want to accomplish is extremely important. However, I have found through my own journey that if we focus too much on the eventual outcome, not only do we miss out on many of life’s great moments.
But, we may fail to take advantage of the daily opportunities and relationships along the path to achieving our aspirations. So, one of my biggest life lessons has been to not wait until I have it all figured out before taking daily intentional action.
I have also found it vital to try to enjoy the journey experience so I can maximize opportunities along the way and become the best version of myself. This, frankly, hasn’t always been easy for me to do. I tend to be my own worst enemy by not celebrating the small victories along the journey and being overly self-critical.
In the blog last week, I covered the importance of micro choices and how they are the foundation for the daily decision points along our journey to achieving our goals. I will be building upon that theme and educating you on why you might be losing focus on your journey and showing you ways to be present and successfully enjoy the ride to achieving your goals.
To better articulate the point of this topic, let us first look at the story of an entrepreneur, business leader, and philanthropist Cheryl Snead, who learned how to adapt and make the necessary changes throughout her journey.
This article is based on an episode of Passion Struck with John R. Miles. Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Podcast Addict, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, or your favorite podcast platform.
How Cheryl Snead adapted and found joy along her journey
Cheryl Snead was born in Englewood, New Jersey, on May 18, 1958. She was raised in a loving environment and provided an adequate education that filled her mind with knowledge and allowed her to dream as big as possible. Growing up, she would often ponder what she wanted to become but didn’t have any clear answer.
Then on the night of July 20, 1969, now aged 11, she watched on TV as Neil Armstrong landed on the moon’s surface, and this got her intrigued enough to want to become an astronaut. As she grew up, she learned that most astronauts had a background in science and engineering, and because of this decided to pursue a career path in engineering.
She took science and math classes throughout school, still driven by her long-term goal of becoming an astronaut. Then it happened when she was about 15; she got on her first plane ride and got air sick. Subsequently, this happened to her on a few other plane rides, and she decided that becoming an astronaut wasn’t the best fit for her after all.
However, she had developed a love for math and science, enjoyed taking things apart and putting them back together, and loved to design and solve problems. So, she made a choice to pursue her passion in engineering.
She attended and graduated from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst with a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, becoming the first African American Woman to do so.
Although she didn’t have any plan on exactly where to work, nor did she know what she wanted to be past getting that degree, Cheryl continued to pay attention to the process she was going through. More importantly, she intentionally engaged. Her actions directly led her to land a job with General Electric.
Cheryl doubled down on her deliberate choices to achieve her goals, allowing her to excel in her career at General Electric. However, she knew it wasn’t the end of the journey for her.
Cheryl then went on to earn a Master’s degree in business from the Krannert School of Management, Purdue University. She later received an honorary Doctor of Business Administration degree from Bryant University.
When the opportunity came to pursue an active role in a small business, she took it. Cheryl founded Banneker Industries, which provides supply chain management solutions, value-added warehousing, and logistic services. Banneker is named after Benjamin Banneker, the first African-American mathematician, astronomer, and inventor.
Cheryl pushed Banneker Industries to remarkable heights for nearly 30 years, becoming one of the country’s most successful women- and minority-owned firms. One of Cheryl and her company’s most notable accomplishments was when she and her husband, Roland, got the U.S. National Subcontractor of the Year award in 2008, including a private lunch with President George W. Bush.
Cheryl was also considered in President Obama’s candidate pool for U.S. SBA Administrator in 2012. During his 2014 visit to Rhode Island, she had the opportunity to meet with him in person. She served on several charitable and for-profit boards locally and nationally.
Cheryl Snead passed away on January 22, 2018. She is remembered as an extraordinary soul who influenced and inspired countless people and for being a champion of the focus on continual improvement and being intentional about the micro choices along life’s journey. Cheryl was also a patient, passionate, and humble champion for the empowerment of youth, people of color, women, and small businesses.
She often said, “when my career and life’s journey is over, I want to be remembered that I managed with enthusiasm, led with passion, and led as a servant.”
From Cheryl Snead’s story here, the following questions can be drawn?
- Why do we lose sight that life is a journey not a destination?
- What are the consequences of failing to understand it’s not about the destination it’s about the journey?
- How do you focus on and enjoy the journey?
Why do we lose sight that life is a journey not a destination?
As children, we often dream about what we want to become in the future: a professional athlete, a doctor, a lawyer, a fireman, an engineer, and so on. It’s easy to have a dream. However, none of us are fully aware of the path and all the steps it takes to reach those career destinations. Like Cheryl, many of us choose a focus because of our upbringing, someone we know or see who is in that job, or because it piques an interest inside us.
But then, we grow up, and the reality of our abilities in relation to our refined desires guides us in often choosing different career paths. While some of us do what we dreamed about at a young age, most end up in different places.
That is because thinking of the end goal is the easy part. The hard part is identifying the specifics of a destination, developing your process of achieving it, and then making the deliberate micro choices to achieve it. We also must push past the inevitable barriers that will arise. As you can see, there are many reasons why we fail to achieve our goals.
Former U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt famously said: “Nothing in the world is worth having or doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty.”
And there is a reason for that. As I learned during my interview with behavior scientist Dr. Michelle Segar, we are conditioned from an early age to understand how to start and stop but not how to sustain. And this is where the problem lies.
We often lose sight of the importance of our journeys because our minds are so fixed on end results that we become rigid and impermissible to adaptation. We often stop because we become overwhelmed by the enormity of what we aspire to achieve and the obstacles we encounter along the way.
That is why James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, is so adamant about the power of systems. These systems are the frameworks required for us to build, improve and execute the actions that happen along our journeys.
Clear also points out another flaw with focusing on the end result: they are finite.
Focusing solely on end results can cause us to become oblivious to the reality of our current lives and the micro choices required to attain those goals. We lose obvious opportunities to advance towards those very goals or new ones that could be birthed during the journey.
What are the consequences of failing to understand it’s not about the destination it’s about the journey?
The following are the effects that will occur when you neglect the process of your journey and pay attention to only your end goals.
You get easily bored and distracted
The activities leading up to your goal include mundane and sometimes difficult things. But if you only care about the end goal and not the process, you will start and stop but not sustain.
It creates self-doubt
Not meeting a goal within your set time can feel like a failure. Thus, by not focusing on the process, you won’t be able to properly appreciate the micro-steps you are taking towards your goal and might begin the doubt your abilities to reach them.
It causes undue stress
Stress is one of the biggest issues people face today. The problem occurs when we fail to allow ourselves to enjoy the process. Instead, we get caught up in the constant pressure of having to achieve more. This causes unnecessary stress, one of the major things causing burnout for so many people today as well as long-term poor health.
You become impatient and may make wrong choices
We often try to short circuit the path to our destination. Doing so can cause us to make choices that will derail us from the right path. According to research, focusing solely on one’s goal could undermine our ability to achieve it.
It can lead to losing your joy
There will always be external factors beyond you that could affect the achievement of your goals. By paying attention to only the goals, you will allow your joy to depend on something outside your immediate control and can easily lose it.
How do you focus on and enjoy the journey?
Author Lewis Carroll said, “If you do not know where you are going, any road will get you there.” Without a destination or goal, one will drift around without getting anywhere.
However, while looking forward to a goal, you must pay close attention to your plans and process towards achieving it. The following are ways to focus on, enjoy and get all the benefits on your journey towards your goals.
- Stay flexible and adaptable so that you can recognize new opportunities and tackle unforeseen challenges along the journey towards your goal.
- Journal or document to highlight and amplify the preciousness of moments in your journey.
- Keep your attention on what you can control to help you get the best out of your current situations and do your best in the present.
- Learn and apply patience to avoid making rash decisions and receive the lessons in each situation.
- Stay positive and live every day with gratitude so that you can always see the good in your journey and stay healthy to accomplish your goal.
- Share your experiences with others to encourage and provide helpful lessons during their journeys. By helping someone else, you also will feel good and encouraged.
- Unwind and engage in fun activities to help relieve you of any unnecessary pressure and refresh your mind and body.
- Prioritize and constantly take action to recognize the resources at your disposal and what they can accomplish in the present.
- And lastly, intentionally celebrate every part of the process. They all play important roles in shaping who you ultimately become and what you accomplish at the end of the day.
Why it’s about the journey not the destination
Life is precious, and every moment of it should be cherished. Only by paying attention to the journey can we truly live our purpose and not merely go through the motions.
In the words of renowned author Greg Anderson, “Focus on the journey, not the destination, for joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.”
This statement succinctly points out that you cannot afford to postpone living the life you want to live and do it with intention. Because as humans, once we reach a mark, we will begin to aim for more, as the emotions never last and will always return one to the baseline. This phenomenon is known as hedonic adaptation, which occurs for positive and negative events.
Our goals will always extend as long as we are here, so you need to enjoy each moment. Even the unpleasant ones can teach important lessons if you pay close attention to the journey. It can build in you qualities like tenacity, grit, integrity, and discipline, among many other positive qualities.
It’s easy to believe that you’ll start creating the life you want tomorrow. But, so often, we postpone to later never comes, and motivation dies out. That is why it is so important for us to be intentional about the micro choices we make every day. That is where you will find joy.
Remember that all you have control over is the present, and when you do your best in it and focus on your journey, it could lead to a destination much better than you imagined. Begin with everyday things. When going to work, talk to or smile at someone, watch the sunrise and sunset, assist someone else with a task, and savor every moment of your waking day.
When you apply all these, you will begin to experience life on a new level, and each moment will be one to be treasured. You will realize that life is a journey not a destination.
- Read my recent article on why the real prisons exist in the mind and what we believe.
- Are you having trouble prioritizing yourself? I discuss where you invest your love; you invest your life in Episode 104
- I explain why materialism is impacting your success and happiness in episode 96.
- Do you know the science of healthy habits? I explore this in-depth in Episode 108.
- Suppose you missed my interview with Jen Bricker-Bauer on Everything is Possible. Don’t panic! You can catch up by downloading it here.
- How do you strengthen your relationship with your best self? Explore episode 110.
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