One of the biggest misconceptions is the often over-emphasised idea that “life is about the journey and not the destination”.

What it says is that the outcome of whatever you are doing is less important than the experiences you gain along the way.

Sorry, but nope.

It sure sounds nice and zen, but the idea is wrong at best. It is one of the many sayings and concepts that has arisen out of a society that isn’t even aware that it is being suppressed.

Whenever a saying surfaces that is not attributed to anyone in particular, and becomes popular amongst the masses, you can be very sure that it is nonsense.

This is one such example.

Millions of people around the world are suffering when they otherwise need not be. They suffer financially, they’re depressed and they lack purpose.

Many of those struggling subscribe to this ‘journey over destination’ ideology.

So what have I got against journeys?

Let’s look at this in a very primal sense. Think for a moment about our close relatives, the Neanderthal. Imagine a small group of them, in the depths of winter, in central Europe, huddled around a fire by a large boulder.

Their environment lacks tree cover and they are vulnerable to the elements and frequent attacks from wolves. They are also getting dangerously close to running out of food.

They need to traverse open ground and marshland to find food and shelter.

Their survival depends on targeting and finding a destination that provides them with tree shelter, higher ground, and wild hogs to hunt and kill for food.

The journey to get there makes them highly vulnerable, but they have to do it to get to their destination.

rlc_journey2

Do you see why the journey can be a potentially dangerous thing?

Journeys are in themselves ‘anti-survival’ even though they must be undertaken to get to a destination. Having a target is ‘pro-survival’.

Having direction is the most important thing we have.

Direction is survival, whether you are a Neanderthal, a stockbroker or a designer.

The saying: life is about the journey, not the destination, denies the significance of destination.

It encourages us to demote direction and embrace a shoulder-shrugging ‘anything goes’ attitude.

When this happens, we have a reason to hold back, to relax, to wander, to be aimless.

All of humankind’s greatest wins happened when people prioritised their destination and went for it. They treated destination as survival. They prioritised destination and did whatever it took to get there.

Would we have landed a man on the moon with the approach that life is about the journey, not the destination?

Would we have invented the lightbulb had we subscribed to that philosophy?

The problems we see, particularly in ‘developed’ countries like the States and the UK, is rooted to the complacency and lack of direction among its people. These weak philosophies are what fuel the problems there.

Our experiences and our failures are very important to our growth. There’s no doubt about that. But without a target, a plan or a goal, those experiences become meaningless.

rlc_journey3

Life is a series of destinations.

Treat it as feedback if you don’t reach the destination you want, and then re-align to a new target if you need to.

Travel, relax, enjoy the moment by all means, but do so with a destination in mind.

You cannot possibly be motivated if you are not facing forward to new possibilities, achievements and expanding into your own unmet potential.

Just don’t cry if you don’t get what you want. Re-adjust the destination and get there as quickly and efficiently as you can with the resources you have.

Life is about the destination, not the journey.

Comment below with your thoughts.

.

Posted by Alex Mathers

Alex is a project starter, sometimes finisher, writer and illustrator. He started Red Lemon Club in 2009 with the aim of helping talented creative people leave their mark.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

68 Comments

  1. I’ll counter with “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans”, “stop and smell the roses” and “Be Here Now”, and I would suggest watching the movie “Click” for the ultimate morality play of putting “destination” ahead of “journey”.

    Reply

    1. thanks for the suggestions Corvus – I’m not denying the importance of staying in the moment. I am challenging the denial of destination, however.

      Reply

      1. Destination is too final how about “goal”? Goal suggests some flexibility on the journey. Our final destination is the grave so I’m in no hurry…

        Reply

    2. or the movie The Words – with Dennis Quaid in it

      Reply

  2. A destination is important, because it guides us on the journey – we know which way to go at the point of decision making each time. However, if we focus on destination to the exclusion of the journey then we miss out on all the experiences on the way – and this, I think, is the real meaning of the phrase.

    Too many of us put off our lives until we reach some particular destination – when the kids have left home, or when the mortgage is paid of, or when we retire. But what if we never reach that point? If we delayed living our life until we reached a particular point, then we never had a life. It is really important to enjoy the journey – the journey IS the life. The destination is the guiding point – important, yes, but not everything.

    Reply

    1. Kim, I think you understand the phrase in its most positive context.

      Reply

    2. I understand this saying the same as you Kim. Of course we need destinations, but we need to enjoy our lives and be happy WHILE we are reaching for our goals.

      Reply

      1. Kim is absolutely right on the money. Destination or Goal which is what we are really saying is just that, an end point. What do most people do once they reach their goal/destination? They set a new one. If the only thing you were concerned about was reaching a goal then you have learn nothing about life except how to get to from point A to point B. Risking everything on a goal and not learning or enjoy the process is fruitless. The journey is part of reaching the goal and in most cases where you learn to overcome obstacles that will allow you to reach that goal. I’m sorry but only someone who has not been truly successful would think it about the destination. Ask anyone that is truly successful and they will tell you that they learned more from the journey than reaching any goal. Alex has got it backwards. Without learning from your journey the Goal is useless. Just because you set a destination doesn’t mean you that is where you should be going. The journey in many cases help you to better define your destination.

        Reply

  3. I am a pretty goal oriented person; maybe too goal oriented at times, so I often have to shift my focus onto the journey to maintain balance. If I get frustrated with myself, people often pull out the journey over destination plan pointing out that I don’t have to feel miserable on my way to the goal post. They are right. I think journey over destination is an important point and strategy to retain balance for people like me who can hose their happiness for a very challenging goal if we are not careful. The context has to be right though. People who treat life like something one should just wander through with no aspirations, no desire to solve any problem, no desire to create or work at anything, and then use the journey over destination argument as some sort of Zen argument for their choices may be in a totally different mind set than I am, or they may just be making excuses. I agree with your point; a destination is very important and we are in fact chemically programmed to want to succeed at reaching a destination. The rush of euphoric chemistry we get upon reaching a destination says so. This evolution of chemistry is trying to tell us something.

    Reply

    1. you got it!

      Reply

      1. I also think you could be right about another point you made; valueing journey over destination could be a symptom of a repressed society where people feel all sorts of things are just unachievable. I am 53 now. The world is so much more complicated for kids coming out of high school today and my generation did not really make changes in the way we raised our kids and released them into the world. I think the paradigm for raising kids needs to change. We are not fully engaging them during their pre-teen and teen years when they are so full of spunk and energy and completely capable of learning anything. It is insane that we do not let them start training for their career until their twenties. It is ok to train for a career when they are too young maybe to know what they want. It is ok if they change careers 3 or 5 times in their life. It is ok if they have some danger and adventure in their life. All these things lead to a fullness in life. Instead, to protect them from all that, we raise them in overly safe suburbs forcing them into jobs at Mc Donalds with no adventure, purpose, or meaning in their life until they are board to the point of madness and tell them they are not ready for a career. Any parent who has ever experienced a teenager’s ability to run circles around them and all their teachers knows; they ARE strong, and ready, and full of energy. We are suffocating our children and they are loosing the ability to achieve their dreams because of it. The phrase “putting away childish things” is often used to justify this idea that one must give up their creative dreams to work in an office and make money for their boss. With the proper training, this would never happen. We need to start young though and stop protecting our children from life. We need to change the focus of education and allow some of the academic aspects to fall in the catagory of life long learning while we enable our children to focus on learning things that are more meaningful for them in the short term. We need to change our educational paradigm entirely.

        Reply

        1. Spot on Heather – great comment – it’s definitely something that needs fixing, and does tie in closely with valuing journey more than destination. And that’s wrong.

          Reply

  4. There are so many nuances to this statement, in that there are ‘micro-destinations’ (i.e. goals such as getting that patio deck built), to ‘macro or end-destinations’ that may take an entire lifetime to achieve (i.e. effecting real political or societal change through our work). Put another way, is one’s life a failure if one does not reach one’s ultimate goal? I don’t think so. That’s why the journey is so important. Yes, have goals and destinations in life in order to provide yourself with some structure and direction (i.e. make an effort and live an engaged life), but don’t consider the end result as the ultimate measuring stick of success or lack thereof. What I believe is important is that we cheat ourselves if we do not participate in – and contribute to life, during the time that we’re walking this earth.

    Reply

    1. Yep – this was an article to challenge and get people to think a little. It’s easy to believe a statement and not look into the alternatives.

      Reply

  5. Read the first paragraph couldn’t read any more. Sorry but I completely disagree.

    Reply

    1. How’s the 9 to 5 life bro?

      Reply

  6. Not to get too meta, but it could be that the journey IS the destination. It reminds me of the American dream including the ‘pursuit of happiness’ which is not the same as ‘happiness’. I think Alex is bringing attention to having clear goals, and working towards those goals, even when the work is not pretty.

    But, It’s not like we reach our destination and say, ‘Ah, OK. Now I am finally here, I can stop trying.’ The bear went over the mountain. We always have another mountain to climb and it is the pursuit and accomplishment together that brings us fulfillment. I think what Alex is targeting as a red herring, relates to this entitled western-mindset that if you feel like you are doing a good job, then you deserve rewards.

    This might be a part of a larger dialectic conversation regarding form and function. Look at Steve Jobs, he died an early death- and we could go into why that is- I think it’s safe to say he missed out on things like ‘Peace of Mind’, his daughter and living to an old age for a perfect product that the world would oogle over. Feel free to tell me how I’m wrong about this. Is it worth sitting on top of the world if you are all alone?

    Do the means justify the ends, is all well that ends well? We are not Buddhist monks, obviously we have to get shit done. If we could wrap up in a temple and be Zen, and create great content, and run a business we might all be doing that while living in bliss.

    As for me and my crew, I am going to hunker down to my work, in a pleasant cafe in inner SE Portland. Bust out some work, go home play Zelda, bust out some more work, shower, shit, shave, eat, bust out more work, go for a skate, bust out some more work, eat, rinse repeat.

    Reply

    1. Awesome post Patrick!

      Reply

  7. I love this article, Alex. Very nicely articulated and I must say that I ALWAYS hated that stupid quote: “Life is about the JOURNEY and not the DESTINATION”. I’m not at all knocking the journey because it is through the journey, we can discover and learn so many things about ourselves…thus making us richer when we finally do reach the destination. But the point of making a goal is to reach that goal and not making the journey the highlight.

    Reply

    1. Thanks Stephanie! You’ve interpreted my article just right.

      Reply

  8. The journey is extremely important, especially considering that most of us creators here are trying to make a living doing something we love. Surely we could make greater, more reliable incomes doing other jobs that we don’t like; why don’t we? It’s because we choose to take a journey that we enjoy, rather than go out and reach that destination in some other way.

    I understand the ultimate lesson here about the importance of setting and reaching goals, so don’t think that’s gone unnoticed. In the larger sense, though, I think we’ve all accepted the that journey is more important the moment we decided to go into creative roles.

    Reply

    1. Depends on how you look at it. The article was just to draw attention to the false nature of placing journey over destination. Thanks for the comment!

      Reply

  9. I like this Alex and it’s just the out-of-the-box thinking readers of Red Lemon Club have come to expect. It seems to me reading your article that destination, any destination, near or far, that is in the short term or the long term helps to find direction. Direction for me can be about things like discipline to work, productive times to expand your skill base, reaching out and making new connections, time management, personal philosophy, quality control and doing your best.

    Your example was one of survival, of risk taking eventually paying off for very basic needs – a safe
    and well nourished, sheltered and looked after group. It is my understanding that your work
    involves a lot of direction setting and reaching destinations, many destinations successfully. Interestingly, I think this kind of thinking and especially from the example you gave could
    apply to leadership roles within a group as well.

    In my work I have been part of a team mostly with varying roles, sometimes one of leadership for the group. It would be difficult for me to analyze my entire work experience for this discussion, but if I were a Neanderthal I sure would prefer being in a group that had aimed with direction for a safe and productive destination than one that meandered aimlessly from place to place – I am not now talking about nomadic tribes, as I feel they too would have to have had ways to calculate patterns in the environment around them, set direction and reach destinations that were safe and productive.

    It is interesting that all of these practical considerations sit counter to the commonly bandied about phrase “it’s the journey not the destination”. I would add that sometimes it has taken an awful long time to reach some of the destinations I have directed my efforts towards. Perhaps it is a case of “a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step” – with plenty of destinations reached
    along the way.

    Reply

    1. Pleasure as always, Sam. The last quote you mentioned actually supports my argument pretty nicely ;). Thanks

      Reply

      1. Christine Painter January 21, 2015 at 2:40 pm

        Thanks for this timely article, giving me the impetus to review both my
        journey and my destination(s). I think that the journey and the
        destination are inseparable – each influences the other. Gloria made
        a great comment that they are not mutually exclusive. As a creative,
        if I don’t wake up each day and can’t wait to get started on
        my current project, then maybe either my journey or my destination need
        fine tuning. It always a pleasure to receive a Red Lemon
        thought-provoking article – thanks Alex.

        Reply

        1. Thanks Christine. Great to hear that the article got you thinking. Let me know how it goes!

          Reply

  10. Wow, what an interesting article! I think that life is about both the destination, and the journey. Otherwise, if it was just about the journey, like you said, you would be aimless, and waste valuable time and effort. If it was just about the destination, then the process of the journey would not be valued as important, and exciting. I think a balanced perspective is needed for a philosophy about life.

    Reply

    1. Thanks Samantha. You got it 🙂

      Reply

  11. Interesting post Alex. At first I was not sure how it would resonate with me but further reading found some serious pearls of wisdom along with some great comments by other folks.

    These days I’m more focussed on the outcome I want/intend to create. It’s not a hope or a prayer and spend time each day doing something towards it. Yes it’s a journey filled with some rather unusual adventures at times and I like that. However there IS an all important destination to be reached.

    Nothing drives me more crazy than listening to folks say – “well I have to wait to have all my ducks lined up in a row first…”

    Watch a mamma duck. She doesn’t sit there with her hands on her hips toe-tapping and “waiting” for her ducklings to “line-up”. She moves – with an obvious destination in mind – whether it’s for food or shelter – and the ducklings follow suit.

    Reply

    1. Agreed! Love the ducks analogy.

      Reply

  12. Off-topic: The Neanderthals were not our ancestors, they were a completely separate species of humans. There were many species of humans back then.

    On-topic: You’re absolutely right! But I guess that the saying was trying to communicate that you should enjoy what you do, towards that destination. If you hate every step of the journey, maybe the destination isn’t worth it and you should change it. At least that’s how I see it.

    Reply

    1. Good point. Mistake noted :-).

      Reply

  13. Thank you! This is so true and I’m so glad you wrote this piece. 🙂 The title indicates otherwise, but you do acknowledge the importance of both. You can only truly enjoy and appreciate the journey if you have a destination. It’s not mutually exclusive. An eternal journey without a destination gives you no time to rest, look back and reflect, and ultimately takes you nowhere. On the flip side, completely ignoring the journey makes the arrival at the destination much less meaningful.

    Reply

    1. Very well said Gloria :).

      Reply

  14. Just want to say, I love the illustrations on this article.

    Reply

    1. thanks Zeen

      Reply

  15. Absolutely essential, Alex. Great reminder of how warped our conditioning can be! The journey is the cherry, the destination is the cake! Hungry anybody? That cherry’s gorgeously red and beautiful to behold….but not very filling when it comes to the crunch.

    Reply

    1. Love the way you put it Linet!

      Reply

      1. I really appreciate your deep yet concrete reflections…true value for us out here!

        Reply

  16. Dennis Robinson June 16, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    Your stupid.

    Reply

  17. Dennis Robinson June 16, 2015 at 3:04 pm

    You’re an idiot and perpetuates dribble, but no logic.

    Reply

  18. I believe the journey is equally as important as the destination. Yes you don’t want to end up somewhere that totally sucks, but you don’t also want to be so hyperfocused on the destination that you miss out on the moments in between destinations.

    Reply

  19. Dear Alex, might you not just be subverting the meaning of the phrase? When people say that “life is a journey not a destination” what they mean is that there is no destination as such! I mean sure, you can break down life into chunks and have “destinations” as in your neanderthal example or going to the shops for milk, complete your masters degree or whatever, but the truth is those “destinations” are not final, life carries on! What they are is bits of the journey! If life was a “destination” as such what would that be? I can only think of one and we will all get there sooner or later! That’s why life is a journey not a destination!

    Reply

  20. Destinations wouldn’t even exist, if it wasn’t for journeys. It’s just that simple!

    Reply

  21. […] college students, we all came here with a destination in mind. College is the time to discover what we like and dislike, change majors and declare […]

    Reply

  22. […] college students, we all came here with a destination in mind. College is the time to discover what we like and dislike, change majors and declare […]

    Reply

  23. This is a very well-written post and gives a different perspective on a common phrase. It is critical to have goals and to focus on achieving them. But, as some comments indicate, when we achieve a goal we most likely, and should, set a new goal.

    At the end of each of our mini-journeys, we reach a temporary destination. But the end of our life is our death and death is not a destination, it is an ending. Life is a journey should remind us of the importance of how we live our lives, what destinations we set, and the importance of what we do during our personal journeys.

    What this post should provoke is the knowledge we have the freedom in our lives to determine each of those destinations. And that setting our course for those destinations is important. Our journey should not be taken as a passenger. Sure, we may sometimes say, “How did I get here?” but more often than not, we can determine our own destinations while recognizing the value in the journey itself.

    Joseph Campbell wrote of the “Heroes Quest” and the need for each one of us to take that journey. Thoreau made the observation that “many lead live of quiet desperation and go to their graves with their song still in them”. The fictional wizard, Gandalf, said “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

    Great post! You made me think about life, thank you!

    Reply

    1. Thank you Paul! You support the point that journey is nothing without some commitment to where you are going. If you don’t have commitment/destination, the journey is meaningless.

      Reply

      1. Agree, thanks! Cool site, btw!

        Reply

  24. We are all born and hence we must die. So we know Death is the final destination, So is the journey important or the destination.. I vote the journey, so that when I reach the destination I look back and say what a life it was.

    Reply

  25. For me, the destination is already LOUD and CLEAR. Im 1/2 way through a 4 year long project. Often All I think about about is “I cant wait to finish this beast”. So
    for many of us its not like we don’t have a worthwhile destination in mind. We have the destination in
    mind but its too LOUD In our heads! So loud that
    it starts to ruin our quality of life. When I work more than 40 hours a week on it my life becomes out of balance. I stop spending quality time with the family, I dont check up on my aging parents. I reduce my time exercising, catching up with friends, and doing little things I love. I am trying to enjoy the moment and enjoy the journey because for me when I do this, the quality of my work improves. Enjoying the journey improves the destination.

    Reply

    1. Good thoughts David, destination is important but you need to stop and smell the flowers sometimes – good thing you are aware of it! Many are not.

      Can I ask what project is taking up 4 years of your time?

      Reply

      1. I dont want to get into the details of it except to say i have to live thrifty now and there is likely to be a big pot of gold at the end of it. This is the case with lots of people whether it be doing university, writing a book, starting a business etc. A lot of people have fallen short of their destination because the road or journey is too tough and painful. If they eased back a bit and they enjoyed the journey a bit more, then I think they would be more likely to get to their destination instead of quitting. Having a big reward at the end makes me say “I cant wait until…” or “I wont be happy until I finish this”. Friends say to me I should visualize myself at the destination. But like I said all this focus on the destination makes me crazy. I need to focus on the here and now not on the destination.

        Reply

        1. It’s about finding the balance. Without destination, as I’ve argued, you would have no purpose, and without the moment, you would be too worried all the time.

          Reply

  26. actually the problem with life as a destination is that people forgot to stop by and observe life they tend to move fast and work endlessly resulting in burnout
    we need to live the present moment and take life as journey but it is my journey
    just like any well planed trip i know my destinations and aware of them and working toward them but keeping in mind that this is a journey to enjoy this is time to have fun that ease up the stress in my life.i put everything i have to get what i want but if anything doesn’t work out i am acknowledged enough to know that i should move on or i should try another way to get to next destination
    see destination and journey both are of equal importance here
    but i would still emphasize on journey as destination gives me a direction but how to get there is my choice (journey)

    Reply

  27. Of course most people are going to disagree with you. That’s because most people work 9 to 5’s for a boss who knows the importance of the destination, lol. If you disagree with this post, you’re a sheep. Simple as that.

    Life is about the destination. Sure, the journey can be fun and all, but if you don’t have goals, if you have no vision, if you’re not working hard to get to where you want to be in life, then you’re going to end up like all the other sheep in this world working for a man who is using you to reach his goals.

    Is eating healthy and being fit about the journey or the destination? The destination, obviously. It’s about looking great. Which takes time. The journey isn’t always that fun. But the destination is worth it.

    Focus on the destination. It is what keeps you motivated and dedicated to success.

    Reply

    1. I work for myself I have for over 20 years. I am an artist and designer. I work on the projects I want to work on and with people I want to work for. You are as deluded as the guy that wrote this.

      Reply

      1. If you’re so “successful” then why would you see this article as delusion? How is the journey more important than the destination? That’s honestly the dumbest mentality of all mentalities lmfao.

        Reply

        1. You illustrate my point so eloquently:)

          Reply

          1. That’s what I thought, you can’t even say WHY this article is wrong lmao. Typical sheep. But hey it’s funny you came back here a year later just to respond at 330am LOL. Still waiting on your reasons to why this is delusional. You going to elaborate?

          2. Your views are clearly set. no matter what I say will change them. Your post was confrontational and like others that post on here and other channels you struggle to accept that there might be other, equally valid points of view.

          3. Confrontational? Oh, you’re a cuck. Sorry but I’m not sorry that my words hurt you. That’s your problem though, not mine. And I forgot that you “stopped reading after the first paragraph” yet you were so hot and bothered by it you had to submit your idiot comment lmao. Get the fuck out of here you man baby.

          4. Haha enough said:)

          5. Yup, you got nothing. Cya hater 🙂