Getting the most from the journey

Hand holding a compass to set direction compared to the sun

When I produced and edited broadcast TV, I’d figured out exactly what needed to happen at each stage of the production for everything to get done and delivered to the TV station on time, every time. Wasn’t always fun to be on a clock, but without focus and goals, the project would never get done in time for that airtime slot.

That meant I knew how long we needed to spend on a farm to do an interview and get the right b-roll. And if I had to have one of my content specialists fill in as grip to hold down that barn door that kept flapping in the wind so we could have quiet on the set to do the interview, that’s what happened.

When it came to editing, I knew exactly how much finished show I needed to create in an editing session. I’d be all over the show, editing a segment here, a segment there, but at the end of each session I knew exactly where I was at. Had to as it was a tight schedule with barely any recovery-time built in.

As entrepreneurs and business people, we have to focus on goals. But sometimes being too fixated on a goal can hurt us, our business, and even the goal itself. Because if we focus exclusively on the goal, we miss everything else that’s going on around us.

That can cost us relationships, business and our health.

We absolutely need goals—big ones! But setting a goal also requires stepping into a journey to get there. In fact, to a great extent, a goal determines the journey we’ll take. You can’t set a goal and pursue it without also embarking on a journey.

The Journey

The journey is

  • where we experience life
  • what shapes our character
  • where we engage with people
  • where we experience adventure

Yes, the goal is vitally important. This goes without saying.

But so is the journey. Without the journey, we can’t reach the goal. Yet, if we focus exclusively on the goal, we tend to look at the journey as just a necessary evil to get where we want to be. For this reason, we need to consciously step into the journey as well.

How to Get the Most from the Journey

1. Discipline yourself to be fully present in the journey. We’re driven. We’re so focused on what’s next that we miss what’s going on around us. All we can think about is the goal or task before us. We’re oblivious to people, conversations and circumstances that at the time seem trivial. But all too often, the “noise” around us is far more relevant to our goal than we can possibly imagine.

When we truly live in the present, we experience chance encounters that may be life-changing. Perhaps you’ve had an encounter like that and know exactly what I’m talking about. Read A Moment that Changed Everything for the story of a chance encounter I had that made a huge, lasting impact.

Living in the moment, we also see things that we would have otherwise missed — to our loss. We learn things that we could not have learned in any other way. Often, by being fully present, we make astounding discoveries that help us refine and eventually achieve our goal to a greater extent than we originally thought possible.

2. Reign in your expectations. When we focus totally singularly on a goal, we want everything to go our way. We expect all to fall neatly into place to assist us in pursuit of our goal. But life seldom works that way. The problem is, our unreasonable expectations tend to discourage us, frustrate us, and cause friction in our relationships.

When we allow our focused pursuit of a goal to dictate our expectations, we will be disappointed along the way. Contrary to our deepest desires, we are not in control of everything that goes on around us. And this leads us to the next tip…

3. Embrace hardships. When we encounter hardships in pursuit of a goal, we invariably view them as unwanted obstacles. Our gut reaction is to remove them or bypass them as quickly as possible.

Instead, accept them as challenges and opportunities for growth and learning. There’s no better teacher than an obstacle or challenge.

I was on a train from Little Rock to Los Angeles when I discovered that I’d left my computer charger at home. And I’d planned on getting lots of work done on the train. Change of plans.

I did focused work while the battery in my Mac still had juice. Then I switched to using my phone (which I had a charger for). Doing different tasks than planned, but ones that needed doing.

Eventually met a couple with Macs and they lent me a charger to get back up to full power. Got more work done. Once in LA, my first stop was an Apple store to get a charger. In the end, the work got done, and my time was spent in a more varied manner than if I’d had my charger with me. So not all bad. Plus I met some nice people…

As the saying goes, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade…

4. Make up your mind to enjoy the journey. Think of the journey in terms of a road-trip. Let’s say you’re on your way from Chicago to Denver. Long drive through Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska to even get into Colorado.

You can choose to either:

  • a. Glue your hands to the steering wheel, stay awake drinking Red Bull, don’t stop for restroom breaks, set the cruise control for 10 miles over the speed limit, and chant, “I can hardly wait to get through these boring states!” while driving straight through OR…
  • b. You can listen to your favorite tunes or podcasts, carry on meaningful conversations with your passengers, and make some fun stops along the way at places like Dixon, IL (boyhood home of Ronald Reagan), the Mississippi, Des Moines (come during State Fair time), Council Bluffs, IA (eastern terminus of the first transcontinental railroad), North Platte, NE (visit the Union Pacific’s Bailey Yard there – the largest railroad classification yard in the world, with visitor center) and so on.

Choice A may get you to your destination quicker, but at what cost? It’ll take you two days to recover from that intense marathon!

Choice B will take a bit longer, but you’ll build memories, deepen relationships and make the journey more pleasurable. And who knows, you might even forge some strategic connections along the way.

You and I are entrepreneurs. We’re goal-oriented, but we don’t want to miss the journey as we push toward those amazing goals. And conversely, while you’re enjoying the journey, don’t lose sight of your goal!

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