9 min read

Prompt 40: The Journey

Do you focus more on the destination or the journey? This prompt is about getting that balance right.
Prompt 40:  The Journey
Photo by Yann Allegre / Unsplash

9 months ago, I kicked off this year by writing weekly prompts in the hope that they might help me (and maybe you) to find my spark.

In the days before I wrote that first prompt on INTENTION I thought it might be useful to map out the 52 weeks ahead, and I created one of the biggest 'mind maps' I've ever made where I brain-dumped all my ideas for potential prompts.

There were over 100 ideas - some of which we've already covered in the first 39 weeks.

Every time I've looked back over that mind map, there's one little thread of it that keeps standing out to me. It looks like this:

"Journeys are as important as the destination."

Someone Wise

I chuckle every time I see that.

The 'quote' is one that I'm sure I've heard many times over the years, but if you know me well, you know that I always like to credit my sources for ideas, and so a few weeks ago, when I started working on this prompt high on my agenda was to work out who the wise person was!

And so began my search.

Photo by Les Argonautes / Unsplash

Which wise person can we credit with the advice?

It turns out that all the wise people said it - or so it seems.

I trawled the internet for hours trying to get to the bottom of it (perhaps procrastinating just a little), and it seems that every philosopher, poet, author, rapper, artist, entrepreneur and children's television host has their own version of the quote.

The earliest I could find was a version of it from the 1600's.

"Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home."

Matsuo Basho (Japanese poet)

But I'm sure someone with better research skills could go back further and find the sentiment in all kinds of ancient writings.

And there is no shortage of similar ideas that have been uttered since!

While each has its own emphasis and slightly different points of view, I find it remarkable just how many people have used the metaphor of journey and destination to give this type of advice.

The Journey Is On
Photo by Clemens van Lay / Unsplash

Here are just a small number of the many I found today:

"The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction not a destination."

Carl Rogers (psychologist)
"The journey matters as much as the destination. By engaging in the moment on set, I've stopped rushing and now find pleasure in the collaborative process - the characters, the costumes - rather than worrying about the finished product."

Michelle Dockers (actor)
"Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it."

Greg Anderson (wellness authority and author)
"Sometimes, it's the journey that teaches you a lot about your destination."

Drake (rapper, singer, actor)
"You don't want to get too wrapped up in that final destination. You want to enjoy the journey, enjoy the process, and just take it one step at a time."

Carli Lloyd (soccer player)
"One's destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things."

Henry Miller (novelist)
"Let your joy be in your journey - not in some distant goal."

Tim Cook (CEO)
"What keeps you going isn't some fine destination but just the road you're on, and the fact that you know how to drive."

Barbara Kingsolver (novelist)

I could go on.

I found hundreds of them spanning the centuries and from people of all parts of the world, occupations, ages, genders etc.

The idea behind this week's prompt is not new!

It seems that since humans have been humans, the wisest among us have observed that, at times we get so wrapped up in reaching for the mountaintop destinations in our minds that we lose sight of the views and experiences that are before us on the way up!

PROMPT: are you focused on the journey or the destination?

My friend's eulogy

Candles in a church
Photo by Eli Solitas / Unsplash

Recently I heard the news of the passing of an online friend who I'd met a few conferences and done a little work with.

They were based overseas so getting to the funeral was out of the question. Fortunately, there was a live stream for those who were unable to attend.

As I watched the stream and listened to the eulogy and reflections shared by the family of my friend, it struck me (as it almost always does at funerals) that despite my friend having many achievements in business, sport and a great deal of influence that it was not these things that those who spoke about them focused in on.

While a few of their achievements (destinations, if you will) were mentioned in passing, it was stories of the journey that were celebrated.

Stories of:

  • experiences shared
  • unexpected challenges faced
  • character traits developed
  • failures owned
  • loyalty shown
  • private acts of generosity
  • and loving relationship grown

It was the journey travelled that was remembered and celebrated - not the destinations.

My recent Journey

Sunrise over Wineglass Bay, Tasmania.
Photo by Josh Fotheringham / Unsplash

A couple of weeks ago, my family spent some time down in Tasmania.

On one of our days there, we decided to hike in the beautiful Freycinet Peninsula to its famous Wineglass Bay.

The hike was about a 2-hour round trip, culminating in a beautiful view of the wineglass bay from a lookout at the peak of the walk.

While the highlight of the walk was that lookout (the destination) we only really spent 20 minutes there (catching our breath from the climb to it), taking in the gorgeous coastline, posing for selfies and congratulating ourselves for making it.

It was a great 20 minutes and one that I'm sure we'll remember - but most of our morning's time was spent on the track to and from the lookout (on the journey).

It would be very easy to write off those 100 or so minutes on the track.

The climb was steep, it worked muscles we'd not worked for a while, the kids complained a bit (and we did too), and there were crowds of people on the track spoil, spoiling the serenity of the bush.

The time on the track was 'mundane' compared to the destination - but as we climbed and made our descent, it struck me how important the time on the track was.

It provided an opportunity to talk to each other (and others on the track). There were numerous points of beauty along the way to stop and admire. And the exertion of the climb seemed to make that moment at our destination feel all the more special - because we'd worked for it.

The destination was important too - and it served as a great motivation on the climb up and gave us buzz when we looked out over the coast - but part of what made it great was the journey to the top.

Prompt: Focusing On the Journey

Photo by LOGAN WEAVER | @LGNWVR / Unsplash

This week I don't have a specific activity for you to focus on, but my prompt for us is to spend some time pondering the journey we're on.

It struck me while on the walk that morning that just like we spent most of that morning on the 'mundane' track rather than at the lookout that in life we spend most of our life on the journey too.

Mountain-top experiences in life come from time to time, but we can't typically live in those places and so finding joy, meaning, and sparks of life in the journey is something we would do well to focus upon.

Perhaps you've had a distinct lack of mountain-top experiences over the last few years (I know I found the pandemic hard in this regard), or perhaps you've fallen short of goals and expectations lately - but perhaps there is something to be gained from reflecting upon the journey you've been on of late.

A few quick reflections on Journeys and Destinations

I've been pondering writing this week's prompt for several months. I've written and rewritten it and have made a lot of notes about things I could cover.

Rather than write much more, I thought I'd jot down a few more of the things I've been pondering as quick-fire thoughts - hopefully, one or more will give food for thought.

  • Focusing solely on the destination means we lose touch with where we are now. We cease to become present with the people and situations that surround us in the now.
  • Focusing on journeys reminds us to live in the moment - appreciating and finding meaning in the now.
  • Focusing solely on the destination limit our sense of satisfaction to very specific points in time - meaning we can go long periods of living without satisfaction.
  • Focusing on journeys helps us to find satisfaction, meaning and life in the everyday (where we're going to spend the vast majority of our lives).
  • Journeys are the places where we learn the most about ourselves and the world we live in.
  • Journeys are the places we experience the most challenges - and as a result, are the places we experience the most breakthroughs and growth.
  • Focusing solely on the destination can mean we spend a lot of time focusing on what we don't have (because we're not at the destination yet) - rather than focusing on what we do have by celebrating the now.

  • Journeys shape destinations - it's often when we focus on the here and now that we spot the opportunities that lead us to surprising secret destinations.
  • Focussing solely upon the destination can lead to emptiness once you've reached the mountaintop and begun your 'descent'. Focusing upon the journey means you continue to find meaning and satisfaction in the moment.
  • Journeys help us appreciate the destinations when we finally do make it to them.

Final Thoughts on Focusing on the Journey

People and mountain
Photo by Fabrizio Conti / Unsplash

Focusing on the journey can be hard for some of us. I suspect some personality types have more of a problem with living at the moment than others.

Developing habits that help us to do this (like journalling or finding a life coach) is essential.

Be intentional about:

  • noticing and celebrating the small daily wins
  • finding meaning in the moment
  • being grateful for what you have now
  • looking for learning in the small successes and failures of life
  • being open to small opportunities that come
  • focussing upon who you are becoming - not just on who you will be one day.
  • savouring the small significant moments in the mundane
  • pausing to look, listen, smell, feel, taste and notice.

And lastly - there's nothing wrong with having a destination in mind. Destinations, goals and dreams are important.

None of the quotes I found on journeys and destinations writes off the destination - but rather, they are about seeking balance.

Let me finish this week's prompt with a beautiful poem that speaks to this topic by Greek poet C.P. Cavafy (translated by Edmund Keeley).


As you set out for Ithaka

hope your road is a long one,

full of adventure, full of discovery.

Laistrygonians, Cyclops,

angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:

you’ll never find things like that on your way

as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,

as long as a rare excitement

stirs your spirit and your body.

Laistrygonians, Cyclops,

wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them

unless you bring them along inside your soul,

unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope your road is a long one.

May there be many summer mornings when,

with what pleasure, what joy,

you enter harbors you’re seeing for the first time;

may you stop at Phoenician trading stations

to buy fine things,

mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,

sensual perfume of every kind—

as many sensual perfumes as you can;

and may you visit many Egyptian cities

to learn and go on learning from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.

Arriving there is what you’re destined for.

But don’t hurry the journey at all.

Better if it lasts for years,

so you’re old by the time you reach the island,

wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,

not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.

Without her you wouldn’t have set out.

She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.

Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,

you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.