Confucius said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” When we begin a journey of a thousand miles, we have embarked upon a major goal in our lives. My wife and I walked the Camino de Santiago about seventeen months ago – 500 miles in 30 days. It was definitely a goal (to finish) and a journey (every single day).
Happiness is derived from having a goal and pursuing it. We gain satisfaction from the achievements along the way. We start. We know where we want to go. We make some progress. Sometimes we get bogged down and the journey sometimes comes to a halt. Or sometimes we wander around haplessly, like a butterfly flitting here and there. Occasionally, we might even decide the journey just isn’t worth it and we accept failure and stop chasing it.
Many of us find that the attainment of the big goal is a major event in our lives. We rejoice and take pleasure in that accomplishment. A few of us have already chosen our next goal and launch ourselves off in that direction. But, when you step back and assess the journey and the goal, you should find that the journey was the really important part – not the goal. The journey is where you learn about yourself. It is how you grow. It is the experience gained and the lessons learned that separate us from the others.
The goal is made up of many events or milestones – many of them minor along the way. If we look at our life, we can see graduation from high school, going to college, graduation from college, getting a job, getting married, having children – and many more events in our lives.
Each of those events is a completion of one task and the beginning of another. Many of us have a tendency to celebrate life’s successes early. We become stuck after accomplishing a milestone, and not our life’s goal. Why? It is possible that we never set a life’s goal. It is also possible that we became tired, lethargic and lazy and accepted the status quo as our comfort zone.
When we have a single goal, we tend to focus on it. We want it. We achieve it. The momentum of achieving one goal and then the next keeps us going. We become successful in achieving our goals. If you focus strictly on one goal (financial rewards) and achieve it, you have suboptimized your efforts at the expense of other important things in your life. We should have balance in our goal setting.
Take a look at your goals. Are they balanced? Do you have at least spiritual, physical/health, financial, social/relationship, mental/emotional and time management goals? Let’s assume you have achieved your immediate financial goal, you still have other goals that add balance to your life and keep you from stagnating in your former comfort zone. Balance keeps us happy and satisfied. Balance reduces stress.
You aren’t the same person you were when you graduated from high school – although there are probably some in your family that might disagree. You really aren’t. You’ve had too many life experiences since then. You are not the same person you were when you first married. Years of marriage provide opportunities for new understandings, new knowledge, and a new appreciation of others.
If you are changing as you go through life, why stop before you get to the end? It’s acceptable to rest and then continue, but is it really acceptable to stop before you have attained what you could have?
I’ve had discussions with a number of people regarding that last sentence. Is it a waste – or, is it our decision to accept less out of life when we could have accepted more. If you are happy when pursuing a goal, and you are satisfied when you achieve milestones along the way, why stop? You are short-circuiting your happiness and satisfaction. As such, you are not able to give back more than you have received later in life when it means more to you to do so.
Do you have life goals? Are they balanced? Are you making progress or standing still?