How many times have you heard someone give a motivational speech and say with authority, “It’s not the destination, but the journey that matters” or “life’s a journey, not a destination”? Well, let’s say this idea is true. How does it play out? If the destination doesn’t matter, then as I’m falling off a cliff with the ground quickly rushing towards me, do I take a fraction of a second to enjoy the view? Okay, so I’m being a bit dramatic. There a lot more plausible if/then statements we can insert here. My point is, whether in life or business, your destination absolutely matters.
The destination is the reason so many companies spend time, energy, and financial resources creating strategic plans with well thought out and expertly crafted vision and mission statements. Where you are headed matters.
The notion that life is only about the journey also negates the planning that it takes to get to the desired destination. Planning determines how many detours and potholes you’ll encounter and how much road construction, or traffic you’ll contend with on your journey. I offer a few quick tips to get you started picking out a destination for yourself or your organization.
- Write a vision and mission statement. This is not just a smart and necessary business practice. This is a smart and necessary life practice. Vision and mission statements provide organizations and individuals with a clear direction. Vision statements articulate where your life, your community, your world will be as a result of your work. It answers the questions, “Where do we/I want to go?” and “How will the world be different because of my effort?” Mission statements articulate what you will do to achieve your vision. When opportunities present themselves, you can vet them by reviewing your vision and mission. Ask yourself, does this opportunity bring me closer to or further away from my vision of the future. If you answer “farther away,” then you pass on the opportunity. Avoid what many in the nonprofit world refer to as mission creep.
- Set goals. Once you know where you are going, break down everything you’ll need to do to get you closer to that destination. These milestones will pave your journey from start to finish. As you create these goals, be sure they are measurable and achievable. I’d love to run a marathon one day (hypothetically, because running is not my thing), but I can’t expect to start training in January and run a full marathon in February. Maybe, I could be ready for a 5k. You can find tons of books and articles that walk you through setting and achieving goals. TED has several videos on goal setting here.
- Write down a plan and check stuff off. There have been countless studies about the power of writing down a plan or to-do list. I write a new list every week. Sometimes, I even write down things I have already done so that I can check it off. Honestly, I’m better at writing lists for work rather than in my personal life, but it’s a practice that has made a difference for me. ALSO, studies have demonstrated that checking off an item on your to do list releases endorphins which help you feel better about yourself and better cope with stress. Who couldn’t use some extra endorphins in their life?
- Be persistent, relentless, and fearless. Go for it. No, really. Get after it! Don’t be afraid to push yourself farther than you think you can go or do things you think you aren’t prepared to do. Remember, you don’t have to have all the answers. You don’t have to walk the road alone. Find people who are traveling the same path (in the same direction) and encourage each other. After all, journeys are more fun when you have a traveling companion.
There is another cheesy saying that I like a lot. “Shoot for the moon, and if you miss, you’ll still be among stars.” You might not always get to the place you intend to go, but have a target. Even a target as big as the moon.
I think sometimes we use the life is a journey language as an excuse for arriving at a place we did not intend to visit.
Ultimately, life is a destination and a journey. We are all going somewhere. Every choice you make leads you to some place – either to one that is desirable or to one that causes you look around and wonder how in the world you got there.