The Importance of Having a Destination (even if it's not perfect)

I'm sitting on my couch desperately trying to put words on a page and my sister is sitting to my left reading Prayer and the Art of Volkswagen Maintenance. Two pages in and she already has an opinion of the book, "I don't really like the fact that he's just taking a trip that isn't going anywhere." As much fun as that might sound at first glance, the more I thought about it, the more I began to agree.

It may just be our personality types (I'm an ENFJ and she's an ESTJ), but we're both wired to want—or rather, need—a destination. It doesn't have to be grandiose, difficult or even 100% concrete as long as the destination is in the right general direction and has some sense of purpose.

Let's take running, for example—personal confession time: I would love to love running but I just don't. The idea of running in circles around a track or even down some streets and back doesn't appeal to me. But here's the crazy part: as soon as I have a greater purpose, such as a Cancer Run (charity), Ultimate Frisbee (victory) or escaping zombies (survival), running isn't a problem. I'll run all day! I just need a reason.

I understand that some people aren't sure what they're meant to do in life and some know what they're meant to do but aren't sure how to get there. In those circumstances, having a destination is more about autonomy than arrival (I'll explain that in a bit).

When you're unsure of your destination, you need to find a map. Maps may come in the form of relationships, wise advice, careers trajectories, answered prayers or a host of other variables but in the end, they all serve the same function of showing you where to turn next. Without a map, you're left wondering aimlessly on a road to nowhere. And as we all know from our childhood friend/nightmarish cat...

If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.
— Cheshire Cat, Alice in Wonderland

Strategy brings with it a whole lot of military connotations but don't be freaked out by it. It's not quite as strict or harsh as it may seem. It's defined as, "a plan of action designed to achieve an overall aim." Even a strategy that doesn't make it past the idea stage has its advantages. It keeps you moving toward goals that are your own so that you don't get sucked into the plans of others.

Further Reading: Is your social role getting in the way of your success?

We've all heard the stories about kids whose parents encourage them to go to medical school or play a certain sport in order for their parents to vicariously live out the dreams they never got to live out themselves. Fast forward to college or even years after graduation and the kid suddenly realizes that their whole life has been spent chasing a dream that wasn't theirs to begin with. That same story can be copied and pasted using boss/employee, teacher/student or friend/friend in place of parent/child and it might hit home for you. Strategy isn't meant to tie you down but free you up to pursue your own dreams and goals.

Strategy is what you need—and if you don’t have one, you will become part of someone else’s.
— Tom Johnson of Toffler Associates and Alan White of MIT

The destination itself isn't as important as the having of said destination.