Here in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia where I live, we have horses on our property. But these horses are skittish. If you approach one of the horses by walking toward it, the horse will run away from you. It will think that you are a predator coming after it. In order to approach the horse, you cannot walk toward it directly. You have to walk like you’re going somewhere else, and approach the horse indirectly. If the horse thinks that it is the focus of your pursuit, you won’t be able to get to the horse. But if it thinks that you are pursuing something else, then you will be able to get to the horse.
That situation is like so many other things in life: You can’t focus on what your goal directly, or else your goal will prove elusive. You have to pursue something else in order to get to your ultimate goal. Because the goal is the pursuit, not the goal.
Here are three situations where you cannot focus on your destination, but instead you must focus on the journey.
1. Shareholder Value
In business, you cannot focus on increasing shareholder value if you want to maximize shareholder value. Maximized shareholder value is not really the goal you want to focus on. That may be indicator you have reached your goal. But that cannot be your goal. The goal is the pursuit, not the goal.
In the book Firms of Endearment: How World-Class Companies Profit from Passion and Purpose, Raj Sisodia and his co-authors selected 28 companies for a study that focused on the company’s sense of purpose, their culture, and their leadership. These companies had six traits in common:
- They said that maximizing shareholder returns was not their goal.
- They paid their team well with generous benefits, on the whole.
- They paid taxes at a much higher rate than other companies.
- They not squeeze their suppliers to get the lowest price.
- They invested a lot in their communities.
- They provided outstanding customer value and great customer service.
Sisodia and his team expected these companies to provide their investors with a slightly better than average financial performance. But over that ten-year period, not only did these companies do good, they also did well: they performed nine times better than the market and 10.5 times better the S&P 500 index.
If you focus on increasing shareholder value, then you will find it will prove elusive. But if you focus on the criteria that truly maximize shareholder value, then you will achieve that goal. Because the goal is the pursuit, not the goal.
2. Relational Intimacy
If you want to have intimacy in a relationship, it does not start in the bedroom. Intimacy is not the goal you want to focus on. That may be the indicator you have reached your goal. But it cannot be your goal. Because the goal is the pursuit, not the goal.
If you focus solely on achieving intimacy in a relationship, then you will have only emptiness in that relationship. Intimacy doesn’t work that way. You can’t focus on what you think is the goal.
In order to have a truly intimate relationship with your spouse, it must start with valuing that person as a person. You must love that person as you love yourself (Matthew 7:12). By showing your interest in that person, by valuing that person, and by getting to know that person on a deeper level, you will develop a relationship that will lead to intimacy. Because the goal is the pursuit, not the goal.
3. Personal Happiness
If you want to be happy, you cannot focus on your personal happiness. Happiness is not really the goal you should be focusing on. That may be the indicator that you have reached your goal. But it cannot be your goal. Because the goal is the pursuit, not the goal.
If you focus only on pleasing yourself, then you will end up being miserable. If you are always chasing something that you think will bring personal pleasure, that’s effectively a chasing after the wind. You will end up alone and unhappy.
To achieve personal happiness, you must invest your life in something meaningful. Discovering how you can best serve others with your personal giftedness is what will make you happy. By serving others through doing something worthwhile, you will make yourself happy in the process.
Only by appreciating the journey itself can you appreciate where you are in business, in your relationships, or in your personal happiness. The goal cannot be the goal. Only the pursuit will give you the desired result. Because you will always be arriving, but you will never definitively arrive.
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