We’ve all heard some iteration of “life is a journey, not a destination”. But does that mean that destinations are wrong? And how do we know whether we are on a journey or whether we are simply moving toward a destination?
On the surface we understand that we must overcome some distance to arrive at a destination. Our preferred destinations could be a location (travel), a promotion (goal), or a future (time). Destinations are clearly important because if we don’t have an idea of where we are going we will never get there. But, a destination without a journey sounds like a pretty lame experience.
We feel that life should be a journey with many destinations. Pursuing destinations with an adventurous mentality makes life a journey and cultivates a sense of True Wealth.
Why do we travel?
An obvious response is to go from here to there, or to get away. But we don’t really measure our travel by the distance covered. Imagine that you travel from City A to a similar City B and you do similar things in B as you did in A. You arrive by covering hundreds of miles, but just overcoming the distance hasn’t made for much of a journey. So, it is not that distance leads to travel, but travel that makes experiencing distance possible.
The true measure of a journey is the distance we discover, not the distance we cover. We discover distance by unplugging from work (distance of daily routines), enjoying different lifestyles and food (distance of cultures), appreciating better weather (distance of climates), or spending quality time with loved ones (distance of bonding experience). If we fly across the world for a week in a tropical paradise but are still attached to our work and the stresses of daily life, we haven’t created much distance to explore.
Our travel turns to journey when our experience becomes more important than the destination. The nuances in our journey keep us in the present moment, not simply open to surprise but hopeful for it. Journeying through life brings a sense of subjective well-being, a necessary state to experience True Wealth.
If we agree that life is a journey and that our experience is more prized than the destination, what does that say about reaching goals?
Achieving a goal takes a combination of luck, effort, skill, and patience. Over time we hit various milestones and, once reached, they then become a guidepost for what comes next. But if we travel blindly from Milestone A to Milestone B without noticing the differences in our experience, then we haven’t discovered any distance along the way. Much like being right for the wrong reasons, if we don’t learn as much as we can along our journey then we can only travel in ignorance.
We all know accomplished people who act like petulant children, have immense egos, operate primarily out of self-interest, or are still astonishingly close-minded. They earned all the accolades, checked all the boxes moving through their career, and are the envy of their tribe. But what distance have they discovered in pursuit of their goals?
When pursuing our goals, reaching a destination is secondary to the distance we discover in ourselves as we strive. Learning from the distance we cover between A and B shapes the person who arrives at B. We become more disciplined, more gracious, wiser – a more ideal version of ourselves. The true benefit of a goal, then, is not in accomplishing it, but in the personal journey we experience in service of it.
Because our society is built on a worldview of productivity and efficiency, everything is measured in time. This explains why people often use time as the scale when asking us about our journey – “Where do you see yourself in five years?” or “What do you want to accomplish before you’re 40?” But when we think about our journey, should we use time as a benchmark for reaching our future destination?
Merriam Webster defines future as follows:
Thus, we might describe our vision for our future as follows: “In five years (time that is to come) we will buy a house in the suburbs (what is going to happen) and will achieve financial freedom (expectation of advancement).”
The three definitions of future are key components of our vision, but the first is merely a measure of the distance covered. If time passes without things happening differently and without progress, it might be the future, but it hasn’t been a journey. To really find the journey in time, we must discover what fills it – what happens and how we develop. The exploration of what fills our time requires the same approach as that which makes our travel and goals into a journey.
Life is what we make it, and it can be a journey if we so choose.
If we choose to explore life, we will be blessed with a journey. Travel enriches our lives by opening our minds and our hearts. When goals stem from curiosity rather than ego they are more likely to develop us into our ideal selves. Time transitions from a constraint or a boundary to something that describes what is explored within it.
Henry Miller best describes how to think about a destination, “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things”.
Travel, goals, and time are all aspects of our journey, but they do not make up our journey. Without discovery travel becomes bland, goals prove to be shallow, and time slips through our fingers without being filled. Reaching our destination isn’t dependent upon discovery, but our journey is. Give yourself the space to invest in being curious about your life experience. Increase your True Wealth without changing the amount of money in your bank account. Make your life a journey.