Friday, April 29, 2011

The goal may not be the destination!

I am a goal-oriented person. I set goals; I aim to achieve them. Daily goals, weekly goals, quarterly, yearly, life goals. And I set up checklists so that I know I'm keeping on track. Have I done this? that? Gosh, have I done something NOT on the list. I'll put it on, and check it "done", so I'll have achieved another goal! If I don't attain a certain goal, I have this inner sense of frustration (at least!) -- perhaps even failure. (Of course, if I sit back and think about it, most often the only one I've "failed" is me!)

I've been pondering this ever since I heard an interview with a scholar/author who suggested that the process-engaged-in is often more important than the goal-achieved. That suggestion (or insight) related closely to a conversation I'd had this week with someone who was wondering whether or not he would ever attain his goals. I suggested, in my conversation with him (prior to listening to the interview) that, despite his frustration about attaining the goal, he had made a huge difference in the lives of folks around him while working TO attain the goal. And that those changed lives may have been as important as anything else in the grand scheme of things.

Physician, heal thyself!

A critique sometimes leveled at (some) Christians is that they are "too heavenly minded to be any earthly good". I think that the sentiment may be just as appropriate for those of us who are so focused on the destination that we miss the joys--or the intermediate successes--of the journey. I remember a wonderful book of several decades back by William Least Heat Moon, entitled Blue Highways. The author recounts his travels around the United States on "blue highways" -- those roads on the map that aren't Interstates (or red/yellow highways), but rather are the "roads less traveled" where he met loads of fascinating people and had amazing experiences. For a time I tried to emulate Moon, taking more time and traveling roads whose designation didn't begin with "I-". Wow, what wonderful drives those were! As time has gone by, I've become so concerned with the destination that the journey has simply become the (quickest) means to the end.

The road in the picture above leads somewhere; there is no clear destination. The destination is suggested by the glow on the horizon, but if that is our only focus, what have we missed? The perspective is amazing. The gravelly surface of the road, and how it affects the painted lines. The rocks on the side of the road; the gnarled trees. The clouds. The light. Color in a gray-scale photo.

I'm not suggesting to "stop and smell the roses" (although that's not bad advice). I'm wondering, along with Dr. Rao (the interviewee above), whether the process of getting "there" is just as significant--if not more so--as getting "there". And, if so, what kind of change-of-mind might that mean? Is "making a difference", for example, located solely in the end result of alleviating some external need, or just as much located in changing ME as I seek to change the world?

What if satisfying God was not the destination, but rather the goal? What if we were able simply enjoy the presence of God, the challenge of God, the sustenance of God, the teaching of God, on the journey?



1 comment:

  1. This is timely. I think we need goals to jump start and get us going where we think we are supposed to be. However, I have found that the journey is often far more interesting than arriving at the destination. And, perhaps we will be so lucky as to obtain greater awareness along the way.