Joseph F. McCaffrey MD, FACS


The Journey Is More Important Than The Destination

Positive psychology strives to help highly functioning people do even better.  Metaphors are one of its tools.

Have you ever  heard someone say that something is “a journey, not a destination”? I suspect you have. 

The metaphor is a useful one, but not always well understood, even by those that use it. I recently heard Esther Hicks express it in a way that made the concept clear. See if thinking of it this way doesn't make it part of your positive psychology tool kit.
Imagine you’re planning a vacation trip. You have a couple of weeks available and you’re looking forward to traveling. You’ve spent months planning your trip – deciding where you want to go, some of the things you’d like to do, just what you want to see, who you’ll go with and so forth. 
You’ve had great fun planning the trip. You’re looking forward to it.
Now imagine it’s the night before you leave. You’re home looking over your itinerary. You see that you’re starting from home, then leaving to go to your first destination. After a few days, you’re moving onto another great place.  Then another…  And another…
So it continues until at the end you return...  home.
When you notice that, do you say, “Oh, look. My final destination is home. I’m already there. I guess there’s no point in leaving – I’ll just stay home and take 'vacation' off my to-do list.”
Of course you don’t. That’s absurd. When we’re taking a holiday trip, we realize we’re taking the trip for the experiences we’ll have along the way, not simply to get from point A to point B. The final outcome isn’t as important as the process.
Consider life that way – a journey whose purpose is growth through experience. As I’ve written about before (It's Not What You Get, It's Who You Become That Matters), who we become in life is more important than what we get. Postive psychology often reminds us of this.
I mention this because too often people see their life as a series of goals they need to achieve. They function from the mistaken assumption that happiness, contentment and a purposeful life will flow from reaching their goals.
Too often, they’re sorely disappointed.
Positive psychology has taken up the useful task trying to discover what does lead to a satisfying life. I’ll discuss some of those findings in the future. For now, realize that your life consists of your moment-to-moment experiences.  By all means pick goals for yourself. Just be sure that on the way to the goal you enjoy the journey.

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