Journey or Destination?

Three backpacking hikers on a rocky mountain ridge. Behind them, the sun is setting over higher mountains, and clouds through which the sun is a fuzzy yellow-white patch

In my Life Design Coaching practice, I work with clients who want to create results that truly matter to them, but, so far, have not been successful in doing so.

Many, if not most, are stuck because they confuse the relationship between process and results. Journey or destination?

My approach embraces both journey and destination. 

However, not everyone sees it this way.

Process vs Results

“Being in the moment is more important to me than producing results,” argued a process-focused poet in one of my creating workshops. “It’s the journey that’s important, not the destination.” 

Another agreed, “I can’t see how you can have a planned end, and still be spontaneously creative.”

But, from the other side of the room, others countered with a nothing-but-results approach. 

“I don’t care what I do, or how I do it,” stated a grim-faced bureaucrat, “as long as it gets me where I want to go. It’s the end that counts.” 

A business woman concurred. 

“Results are everything,” she said. “Get them clear and the process will follow.”

But is it all or nothing? Results vs process?

Why Simplistic Either/Or Solutions Fail

In the “process vs results” issue, we stumble over one of E.F. Schumacher’s “divergent challenges.” (See p.38-40 in my free ebook Thrive!)

Faced with such dichotomies—results vs process, life vs work, simplify vs consume—the more we try to solve, or come down on one side or the other of the issue, the more likely we are to create a polarity between them. The “solutions” diverge from each other.

Unfortunately, many non-creators do choose sides. Others try to balance the unbalanceable.

I have seen individuals stall and couples come apart, over such choices. 

I have seen executives struggle with it, without success. 

I’ve seen non-profit and community groups stray far from their primary purpose, as they waste time debating whether process or results is most important.

But, choosing sides is a partial and limiting way of viewing reality. It distorts your perception. It prevents you from embracing the whole act of creating desired results. 

Transcending Dichotomies

Successful creators glorify neither process nor result.

They transcend the dichotomy by embracing both, without unnecessary attachment.

Writer/philosopher Robert Pirsig described this dilemma in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Comparing life challenges to mountains, he wrote:

Mountains should be climbed with as little effort as possible and without desire. … To live only for some future goal is shallow. It’s the sides of the mountain that sustain life, not the top. Here’s where things grow.”

“Ha!” exclaim the process defenders. “See!”

However, just when it appears that Pirsig has come down on the side of process, he adds, “But of course, without the top you can’t have any sides. It’s the top that defines the sides.” 

Then, having embraced journey and destination, process and end, he turns to action. 

“So on we go . . . no hurry . . . just one step after the next.”

Creating Is A Both/And Approach

Creating desired results requires both process and results.

In it, process always serves an end result—a creation you want to bring into being.

A desired result, held in mind with current reality—an assessment of the current state of your result, including the dichotomy you face—makes your process effective.

Creating is guided by a vision of your desired result, informed by where you are, and what you have to start with, and focused on action that moves you toward the creation you want to bring into being.

My creating-based Life Design Framework, enables to create and adjust, create and adjust… learning as you invent the process as you go.

Of course, an end can also arise out of a process.

Experimenting with colour can lead a painter to envision a new result; exploring a character’s history can give rise to a new idea for a short story or novel.

 I became a runner, after buying a minimalist, nylon running shoe to use as camp shoes when hiking. But loveingthe feeling of running in them, I stretched for longer runs, and road races.

But, in creating, results drive the action—not process.

In the workshop described above, the poet realized that her process was in service of a result: a poem. Not an essay. Not a story. Not a pot. A poem.

The business woman acknowledged that focusing on results and reality could increase the effectiveness of whatever process she chose, or invented.

Following up later, both said that using the Life Design Framework to embrace both results and process made crafting desired results easier, more effective, and more enjoyable.

Quotable Quotes

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.
— George Bernard Shaw

“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.”
— Henri Bergson

“It’s never too late—never too late to start over, never too late to be happy.”
— Jane Fonda

Bruce Elkin

Life Design Coach. Personal Life Coach. 25 years experience. Clients on 6 continents. Author of 5 books and ebooks. Cares about the Earth and living in harmony with its natural systems.