My experience has taught me many things. One thing that I have come to realise is that the journey is as important as the destination. In fact the journey is everything because you never actually reach the destination. If your goal is to be wealthy, are you ever actually wealthy enough? If your goal is to help people will you ever actually help everyone? Of course not, there is always a dollar to be made, there is always another person to help. No matter what your goal, you never really seem to make it there.
Toward the setting sun
I credit this idea to Dan Sullivan. To paraphrase his concept, there is a particular mental space and to help people understand it here is a simple metaphor. Let’s start with a question, ‘do you remember, as a child, the first time that you became aware of the horizon?’
I personally don’t but I do recall looking out my kitchen window and seeing the land met the sky. Next question, ‘do you remember when you were able to identify that line in the distance that was called the horizon?’
Again I cannot recall at what point I could point to the horizon. The last question is ‘do you remember when you first realised that the sky does not actually touch the ground?’
With this question I had a sudden recall of a point in my life when I realised that there was no pot of goal at the end of a rainbow. This was devastating for me because I had just spent nearly half of my life (I was about 8) trying to get to the end of the rainbow.
Maybe I was always interested in wealth, or maybe I was just programmed by society. Anyway back to my point, it doesn’t matter how far you go you will never get to the horizon because it just keeps moving away from you. The horizon is a construct which ultimately serves to help you orientate yourself. The point is that while every human eventually understands this, we seem to lack the ability to apply this concept to goal setting.
The goals that we set for ourselves are the mental equivalent to the observed horizon. The closer you think that you are getting to them the faster they move away from you. There is a disconnection between this basic concept and why we often feel that we aren’t making any progress. We have all heard of the phrase ‘moving the goal post’ but we have never connected the dots to see that we do this to ourselves, all the time. Each step we take moves us closer to our goal and at the same time the horizon moves the goal post further away.
You can never get there because it is a construct that the human mind builds so that it can orientate itself. You can keep moving towards you goal but you have to see where you have come from. You need to be able to stand on your own to two feet, look around and appreciate your journey.
The hardest part
I once heard that there is more numbers between 0 and 1 then there is in the infinite set of natural numbers. This one is a noodle scratcher but once someone explains it to you it seems perfectly plausible. This makes sense in a motivational context as well.
What if you were starting from level 0? How hard would it be for you to get from 0 to 1? Initially everyone says that would be easy but the truth is that it is much harder than getting from 2 to 5. It’s the same as effect as more numbers between 0 and 1 then there are in the regular numbers. It is harder to go from 0 to 1 then it is to go from 1 to 2 because you have more ground to cover in the first instant. The distance from 0 to one is greater than infinite, from nothing to just one is clearly the first time you did it. The distance from one to two is only doubling what you have already done. The distance from 2 to 3 is even smaller again. By the time that you get from 10,000 to 10,001 the distance is so small that we don’t even consider it to be significant.
This has also been called the gravity effect. When a rocket goes into space, most of the fuel is used in the first few minutes. To just starting moving requires enormous amounts of energy. Vast amounts of chaos need to be generated to overcome the stationary state of the rocket. It’s the same as there being more numbers between 0 and 1 then there are in regular numbers. Just to get you from 0 to 1 is the ultimate goal because you overcome the nature of inertia. Once movement is started it is much easier to speed things up. But overcoming the 0 state is an achievement that everyone should be proud of.
Now it is time for us to talk about the ultimate irony of goal post on the horizon. The sky touches the ground all around us all of the time. You are standing on the horizon with every step you take. That’s right, you are already at a goal that you had previously set for yourself. You are already living the life that you want and as evidence of this I would like to point out that you behave the way that you do. Do you want to have a different outcome? Well act like you want something else and do things differently.
So ultimately the goals that we set are the horizon of our mental selves. The thing to remember is that you need to stop regularly, look over your shoulder and see how far you have come, the journey is everything. Enjoy it.