“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.” (Lao Tzu)
A common misconception that the majority of people have is that there is a “finish line” or a “destination” when it comes to life.
Understand: You will never arrive in life because life is a constant and fluid process of self improvement. We are constantly being manipulated and told that contentment or happiness lies at the end of the road. But, the truth is that the road of life never ends. It keeps going until the day you die.
Why have we fallen into this trap?
Modern society has convinced us that if we get this new car or new house then will arrive at the end destination and just coast from then on. This is the idea that we can let loose once we have achieved what it is that we wanted and craved after.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Do you really believe that coasting in life is the path towards meaning and fulfillment? Counter-intuitively, the path towards meaning and fulfillment lies in constantly re-inventing yourself and improving upon those areas that are in a state of dysfunction within your life.
The idea that it’s all about the journey as opposed to the destination is not just a catchy cliché. It has a profound amount of wisdom and can change one’s life if taken seriously.
Going back to the quote that we began this post with, ““A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.” (Lao Tzu)
A good traveler is not intent on arriving because he or she has a deep understanding the process of life is about the process — the journey rather than the “destination.” They don’t become attached to the idea that they will arrive one day and as a result, they don’t engage in the inherent suffering that this attachment brings with it.
A good traveler understands the following:
Life is about the journey as opposed to the destination
The destination does not bring meaning. Rather, the process brings meaning
Detachment is the chief quality and skill with which this understanding is achieved
The good traveler is a student of life and ebbs and flows with what life brings to him or her.
How This Trap Manifests Itself
This trap of thinking that there is a destination in life manifests in the following ways:
Lack of meaning and fulfillment
Let’s say that you believe buying your dream car will bring you meaning and fulfillment. One day, you end up in a position where you can buy your dream car and you end up buying it. For you, the destination is buying this dream car of yours but what happens after you buy it?
Yes, you feel great during the initial stages of owning that car but then reality sets in. You begin to understand that the temporary satisfaction dissipates and it leaves you feeling a void.
The destination of buying this new car was not a destination at all. It was simply another achievement within your life. It is good to be grateful for such things but there must be an understanding that personal development requires a constant ebb and flow between achieving, growing, and reflecting.
What can we do to get around this obstacle?
There are two major mindset shifts that we can make to get around this mental obstacle of thinking that there is a destination in life:
Process > Outcome
A focus on the process rather than the outcome is the best way to get around the obstacle of thinking in terms of a destination in life.
Develop the mindset of becoming process oriented as opposed to outcome oriented. If you have a goal, focus on the things that will actually get you to that goal as opposed to focusing on the goal itself.
For example, if you have a goal of losing body fat and gaining muscle then focus on the following every single day as opposed to the goal:
Getting great sleep
Eating high quality foods
Being process oriented comes down to focusing on the practical actions that will get you to where you want.
Being mindful of the present moment is the second best way to avoid thinking in terms of destinations in life.
The present moment is all there is and if you focus on it with constant awareness then all concepts of the past and future will disappear. This becomes liberating and allows you to focus on the process in its purest form.
Mindfulness also comes with a host of other benefits besides developing the skill of being in the present moment.
To explain it in the most concise way, the focus on the process is liberating. You break free of the chains of the past and future and step into the present moment.