“As a rose is a perfect fragence, color, symmetry and texture and not just a flower, so too life a journey and not just a destination.” Ken Pierce
A week after 9/11 there I was in Nepal trekking with a small group of Aussies and Canucks. We were climbing the Himalayan foothills to a village called Namche Bazaar, about 11,000 feet above sea level. From there we expected to see Mount Everest, which the local Mountain People call “The Mother of the Earth.”
Trekking is like continually climbing ladders all day. It is challenging putting one foot up just one step…over and over, from dawn to dusk, for days and days. Each new step up in the journey became a conscious choice…to be repeated over and over, just to see Mount Everest, our destination.
When we arrived at Namche Bazaar the weather was overcast and so the next day we had to climb even higher if we were going to see this “Mother of the Earth.” And so we did…for three days in a row…got up before dawn to climb higher still…more ladders…just to get a glimpse of Everest.
The third morning we finally got our pictures of Mount Everest. They were pictures of a tall mountain surrounded by a group of other tall mountains…each equally beautiful in their own way. But Mount Everest wasn’t dramatically taller than the others. This awareness drove me to look in more detail at the journey up not just the destination.
In Life is a Journey, Not a Destination, Dr. Greg Schreeuwer explains clearly why this is so important. It is like that saying, “If you’re still waiting to be happy don’t be holding your breath because you’ll suffocate and miss appreciating each breath you took!”
Namaste, Ken Pierce, Editor
Life is a Journey, Not a Destination
I’d like to start this article with a question, but before I do that, I am going to preface my question with an insight. It may not make sense immediately, but I will bring this to light as you continue reading. One of the greatest challenges people face on this planet is overcoming the ‘powers that be’ in order to uncover, reveal and actualize their inner leader.
I’d like to ask you the following question and suggest you think about this. Whether you reflect on this throughout the article or once it’s finished, that’s up to you. How many of you out there, who might be reading this right now, look at life as a series of steps or milestones that you need, should, ought to or have to accomplish instead of a life that’s laden with experience, insight, creativity, possibility and magnificence?
From my own personal experience, I used to look at life as something I had to do. I had to be part of a religion, go to school, choose a career, go to university, find a job, get married, buy a house, have kids and eventually retire. That’s not to say I haven’t done most of those pieces, because I have. I would be a hypocrite if I said otherwise. However, my view on life has changed over the years, and this is an idea, concept, paradigm shift or possibly something you already know, I’d like to share with you to help you on your journey.
So, when you look at the title of this article – Life is a Journey, Not a Destination – what does that make you think? What ideas pop in your mind? What opinions are you creating or have created about it? What beliefs do you have in relation to it? Do you agree with it? Does it irritate you or make you feel charged inside?
What does the word journey mean to you? What does the word destination mean to you? To me, the word destination implies you’re starting at a certain point in time and space, and then ending somewhere else at a certain point in time and space. In essence, it appears to be finite. When I look at the word journey, it looks like something that has no particular end, there is color, vibrancy, change, surprises and even uncertainty. There is no specific end-point. In essence, a journey appears to be infinite because it continues on and on and never truly ends.
When you look at your life, do you see yourself working towards reaching different destinations? The university destination or the marriage destination or the great job destination or the kids destination or even the retirement destination? Do you focus a lot on end-points and finite pieces of where you’re going? Or, do you look at life as a journey that is unpredictable, exciting, invigorating, full of surprises, where you’re in control and can dictate the flow or direction of where you’re going and has infinite possibilities? Something you know has milestones but your focus is on the process, not on what you’re going to get at the end of the race?
Most people around the world look at life as a series of end-points. You might even hear some of your friends, family or even yourself say things like: “I gotta just get here and then it’ll be ok” or “I have to make this money so I can move on with my life” or “I just need a degree and then I’ll be able to do what I want.” All of these phrases or statements are infused with imperatives. Imperatives, for those of you who might not know, are words you use to indicate imposed beliefs or values. Words like ‘should’, ‘have to’, ‘ought to’ or even ‘need to’ are words we use because someone else, a perceived authority in our lives, projected a belief or value onto us about how to live life. As a consequence we injected that into our lives and are following their lead, setting end-points in life, based on their values or beliefs, rather than setting milestones along an infinite journey.
Why do you think this is? Why do you think people out there are following others, working towards achieving destination end-points, instead of leading themselves and creating their own journey through life? Are you doing this right now? Would you like to be the one in the lead, setting the pace and tone of your own life and getting on the road that can take you wherever you want it to go? Are you missing out on the experience of being who you are and sacrificing it for that destination you’re trying to reach?
A few years ago, when I was working as a chiropractor in a highly respected clinic in Sydney, Australia, I reached an end-point – a destination. I realized I wasn’t on the road I wanted to be on. I was following someone else’s journey through life and it didn’t work for me. It didn’t feel like a journey. It wasn’t exciting or full of new possibilities. I wasn’t completely in control. So, I decided to start creating my own journey. I decided it was time to empower myself and see the magnificence in my own story. It was in this moment, I chose to carve out my own life and become an inspired leader.
In the time since I began to venture into my own life, I have waxed and waned. I have been destination focused and then journey focused. However, every time I paid attention to the journey, the process in between milestones or end-points, a great sense of fulfillment, wonder and inspiration surged through me. When the destination mindset crept back in, I felt myself feeling defeated, low, lacking in energy, overwhelmed and heavy. It didn’t really resonate with me but there was this voice inside of me that continued telling me I ‘should’ or ‘I have to.’ I was scared of fully embracing my own choice to live my life the way I wanted. Why? Well, for many years I subordinated to outer authorities in my life, like most of us do, and it was a challenge to go against those beliefs I’d bought into, as well as my mind, which was holding onto those perceived truths.
The sooner I realized the way forward was to become my own authority in my life, the more I pursued it. I became aware life is not about reaching my next destination and only being focused on the end-points or what I’m trying to get to. Life is about what you can learn, gather, appreciate, share, experience, create, collaborate and do right now. Life, as a journey, seemed to be more appealing. I didn’t know where it would lead, but I knew what I wanted to achieve and I may never complete the journey, and it may continue on beyond my time. I just knew if I focused on embracing the process of living, being present and seeing everything as on the way, I would succeed and empower that leader I’d buried inside of myself and leave the journey to be travelled and continued by others.
It may seem counter-intuitive to look at life as a journey, instead of a series of destinations to achieve, reach or accomplish. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t going to be milestones or markers you’ll reach or strive for, but you’ll never truly achieve success and fulfillment by focusing on the concept of: ‘once I get there, everything will work out’. There will always be destinations but the journey, the process in between those destinations, is where the magic lays, not the end-points.
As we all know, when we’re traveling through life, the ‘once I get there, everything will work out’ mindset, is never the reality. Life just hands us a new set of obstacles and challenges to face until the next milestone. The journey never truly ends because everything in this world is actually infinite in possibility, yet we create these end-points to try and make it a more finite world. We place limitations on what we can do by taking this type of action. We lose focus on what happens between each milestone and what we can accomplish for ourselves in those moments, what we can learn and how we can grow.
So, I’ll leave you with a series of questions. When you’ve gone on a journey in your life, whether real or imagined, did it ever truly end when you reached that end-point or are you still wondering about it, looking at photos of it and sharing it with others in some form? In other words, has your journey persisted and continued beyond the destination? Is there still more you would like to do, be or have? If so, focus on the journey instead of where you’re heading. Have that in mind, for sure, but enjoy the moments you’ll get to experience along the way.