Plan To Take Detours
The shortest distance between two points is always under construction. Murphy’s Law
“Life is a journey not a destination” is a well-known saying. But most of us focus on the destination, on where we are heading. Another well-known saying is: “Be careful what you wish for.” Here is what has also been said about life’s destination.
The truth is, most of us discover where we are headed when we arrive. Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin and Hobbes
These quotations suggest that humans are not well-acquainted with where they are headed, their destination. Goals are a description of one’s desired destination, what one wants. One of my favorite sayings is: “Let life be a lesson to you.” This says to me that life’s journey is full of lessons, and means sometimes you need to take detours.
I have been writing about decision making forever. My first paradoxical principle in 1991 was: Be focused and flexible about what you want. The above quotes support this principle. On your life journey, being flexible will be useful, helping you to discover what you are after. To discover is to learn. To be flexible is to be open to influence, responsive to change.
To believe that life is a journey, not a destination, is to focus on the journey, not the destination. A focus on the destination could cause you to miss the journey; you won’t pause to smell the roses. You won’t even notice the roses. “Take detours.” Explore alternative journeys. Sometimes the objective for your decision might be to find out (to discover) where you want to go. Many men go fishing all their lives without knowing it is not the fish they are after, Henry David Thoreau.
Using goals to govern you is like putting blinders on horses’ eyes. Horses eyes, on the side of their heads, work well for seeing the periphery. Blinders keep them focused on the destination. In the same way, a zoom lens keeps you focused and a wide-angle lens helps you to be flexible. Using goals to govern you is like using a zoom lens. Knowing what you want should be “wide-angle flexible”. Decision making should be as much a process of discovering goals as achieving goals, James March.
On your life journey, being flexible will be useful, helping you to discover what you are after. To discover is to learn. To be flexible is to be open to influence, responsive to change. Be open to outcome, not attached, Angeles Arrien. One way not to be governed by goals is to follow James March’s recommendation: Treat goals as hypotheses. A hypothesis is an assumption, something taken to be true for the purpose of investigation. This means two things: you are not sure and you need to explore. Life’s journey is an exploration: to investigate systematically, examine. It is your way of letting life be a lesson to you; a willingness to take detours. Use goals to guide you, not govern you.
What we are seeking so frantically elsewhere may turn out to be the horse we have been riding all along. Harvey Cox.