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Journey vs Destination: How to Stay Present

Written by Tianna Zachariah

When I think of journey, I immediately think of destination. Think about it. Whenever a friend tells you they’re going on a vacation, a trip, or a journey of any kind, what’s the first question you ask? “Amazing! Where are you going?” Then they usually respond with a destination. Hawaii, California, the mountains, maybe even Target. This also applies to other areas of our lives, from education to work, relationship status to self-help goals. Learn the difference between journey vs destination and ideas for how to stay present at any stage of the process.

So, how do we define and understand the relationship between journey vs destination? Which is more important? Which comes first? How can we enjoy and experience both at the same time? And, can we be more present and engaged in the now along the way?

If you think about any good story, we relate to it and we enjoy it because there is an end goal. There is always something clear that is needed or wanted. But if you look closely at those good stories, the destination is usually only one page or one chapter long, sometimes even one sentence. The juice of the story is in the quest. It’s in the journey. It’s the in-between stages that pave the road from where we are to where we want to be. 

Journey vs Destination: Don’t Overlook the Process

As great, important, and necessary as the destination is, I think too many times we get so caught up in where we want to end up that we completely overlook the process that gets us there. We want so badly to just be there that we forget about what it feels like to be here. Even though it’s so important where we want to go, it’s the journey that makes our stories great. It’s the process that prepares us in all the right ways for the vision that we see clearly at the beginning of every great venture. 

Also, when we are hyper-focused on the destination that can enable a rigid mentality within us. Sometimes as we go along a journey, the destination might change.

If we’re so focused on the destination we have in our minds, we don’t allow ourselves the flexibility and the openness to accept necessary detours that might, in the end, alter our destination.

I’ve heard it said that the journey is the destination. If that’s true, there could be nothing more in our favor than to hold this journey that we’re on with open hands—not only allowing changes that we didn’t expect but sometimes inviting them in. 

The Journey: How to Stay Present

Let’s explore this idea of the journey I’ve created a few challenges that remind us to stay present. These are things you can do every day to cultivate a little more presence on the journey you find yourself on.

1. Slow Down, On Purpose

We live in a time where we are constantly encouraged and admired when we struggle, strive, and live a busy life. But going from back-to-back activities without taking the time to breathe and relish in the moments, we are not allowing ourselves to live life. I truly believe that when we don’t take our time, we end up showing up for our commitments and our people at less than 100 percent. Since we live in a culture that glorifies exhaustion, it’s uncomfortable when we take things slow.

When we take our time, we feel like we’re doing something wrong, or we feel guilty because there is always so much to do. If there is time, we will find ways to fill it up. But what if we didn’t? How different would our world and personal lives look if we simply sat in the discomfort of leisure?

Right now, the world could use more people that slow down, on purpose. Stand in the long line at the grocery store, ride in the slow lane, walk to a favorite spot on the weekends. 

Do the things that force you into the pace that demands you be here, wherever here is. 

2. Recognize That You’re Living the Good Old Days, Right Now 

If we took some time to think, we all could come up with a moment in our lives that we look back on and remember with joy, even though at the time, it was a hard situation. We’re able to look back and realize the contribution it made to our now and see it as something we wouldn’t want to miss. We look back and see them as the good old days. But these don’t have to be the good old days someday, they can be the good old days today. 

We can choose to see hard situations as necessary grooves in the concrete that pave the road to our desired destinations. 

Alternatively, we can choose to truly enjoy the good days when they are upon us. 

3. Pack Light

A long journey requires endurance. Endurance demands lightness. We all know the textbook over-packer. Maybe that person is you. It’s important to remember that on any journey, you will have what you need when you need it. 

We cannot control everything, and we cannot prepare for things that are way out of our reach or the steps ahead on our timeline. Each step of the journey will change us, and in order for us to adapt to the changes well, we need to pack light—meaning that we can’t take everything with us on every journey. 

We must take only what we need right now and trust that what we need will be given to us the moment it’s needed. This demands that we stay present to what each step of the journey requires from us. 

If it’s something we must provide, we should give it willingly, and if it’s something that is gifted to us for the next step, we must receive it fully. In order to receive a gift well, we need to have the capacity to hold it, which means that we must not bring everything with us—only the essentials.

Get Curious 

The relationship between the journey and the destination is one that we must get curious about. Teju Ravilochan, in his talk titled “What Love Can Teach Us About Tackling the Impossible,” shares this story about a mathematician that changed history. He tells about the destination and the three-year journey that led this man to his legacy-leaving destination. Teju mentions that this man had passion. Passion is Latin and it means suffering.

The journeys that we find ourselves on are often driven by passion. They are sometimes laborious and cause us unbearable suffering. 

I think that’s why so many times we choose to focus solely on the destination. In our dreams, the destination is not painful. Rather, it’s where we arrive once we’ve been through the pain. 

But, the three years that this man spent laboring and working and fighting for his goal, was just as important if not more important than the one day of glory that he lived, because it instilled in him a love of the journey. It created in him a joy of the process. And, if we choose to look at our journey’s this way, it can do the same for us.

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