It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.
-Ursula K. Le Guin, the Left Hand of Darkness
Pick a destination. That’s easy enough. Now figure out how to get there. Are you driving? Walking? Taking the train? Easy enough. The hardest part is getting there. Traffic, schedules, other drivers and passengers … there are a myriad of variables that can complicate your journey. And once you arrive at your destination, you don’t stay there forever. Eventually, you move on. And the process begins again. You can struggle with this, and scream and yell and cry at all the things that get in your way, but that only makes it ever more difficult to arrive at your destination. The alternative is, of course, to enjoy the ride.
Destinations are akin to goals in that way. Destinations are the thing. The thing is the goal.
Picking a thing to work toward is easy; working toward it is not. As it so happens, you’ll decide on things without consciously deciding on them just as often as you’ll willingly pick a thing to work toward. However, generally speaking, the process is the same: learning to do the thing is not easy. And beyond that, the work doesn’t stop once you’ve learned to do the thing. There’s always more. How do you do the thing better? What lies beyond the thing that you’ll turn your sights to?
Plainly put, things are not endpoints. They’re waypoints. It’s rare that you’ll decide to work toward a thing and then quit once you acquire it. How often have you worked toward the thing and just stopped when you’ve arrived? For the hobbyist, the dabbler, and the skeptic, that’s easy enough. None take a thing seriously enough to see where they can take it; they just walk away. You’ve experienced this at some point, though I argue that it’s rare. More often, you either quit during the learning process, or you continue well on after acquiring the thing.
For the things that deeply interest you, the process is ongoing. Things that affect how well you perform at your work? Things that affect the way you move? Once you acquire the thing and turn away, it’s easy to lose focus, and then it’s all downhill, and not in a good way. If you’re not progressing, you’re regressing, plain and simple.
And just as simple is the antidote: you have to keep moving. Add a little spice to that: you have to learn to enjoy moving. Get the job, the promotion, the new skill, and the goal changes, as it should. How do you become the best at your job, your new position; how do you master your new skill? And beyond that, what’s next? To keep moving requires more than just willpower and motivation. To keep moving requires an appreciation of the process. To keep moving, you have to decide that the journey is the thing, and not the thing itself. And then, and only then, will you enjoy the ride.
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