In my teens and early 20s I used to bike thousands of miles a year. Living in Minnesota, most of that occurred in the summer months. Some of my favorite memories as a youth are the day trips I would take in and around the Twin Cities. I often hopped on my bike, headed in a general direction and just rode on with no particular plan. I also participated in several two-week trips with a group of 15 or more people. In those cases we had a plan and lots of support. Whenever I think about those experiences, my mind rarely thinks about the end of the ride—the destination. I think about the ride itself.
I have vivid memories of miles-long stretches on straight, flat roads among corn fields in Iowa, pine-shaded and curving roads among the lakes of Minnesota, sunrise-kissed bluffs along the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers, grueling yet exciting switchback curves up and down the mountains in Maryland, and many, many more. I also remember riding in temperatures well over 90F as well as one day that was rainy, had high winds, and got down into the low 50s. (We later found out that there were tornado sightings that day!) Some days involved a Dairy Queen stop (or two, or three, …). Sometimes I found a cool creek or lake to wade into. Often, a friendly local would offer a garden hose to top off water bottles.
The destinations, though? Fuzzy images. Some of the destination memories have even blurred into one another. Yes, there are a few images that stick in my mind. Just a few.
I think people are wired to focus primarily on the journey. I think we see that the process of getting from A to B is more important than A or B.
Here is an example: I used to be a university professor. Over my 10+ years in that role I worked with thousands of adult learners. The vast majority of them earned a degree of some kind—bachelors, masters, or doctorate. I can confidently say that for each of those people, the parchment that signifies the accomplishment, and even the accomplishment itself, is not as important as the journey they made to get there.
It’s the growth, the lessons, the hardships, and the triumphs along the way that we reflect on and say, “That was what made it all worth it. The experiences along the way embody the true value in what I accomplished.”
As a leader, there are two important ways to apply this point.
First, are you paying attention to your own journey? Leaders often look at the target of the effort, the goal. The most effective leaders realize that the goal cannot be reached without carefully strategizing all the steps along the way. It’s important to have a goal, but the benefit of having the goal is realized in the journey getting there.
Second, are your carefully guiding the journey of those on your team? One of a leader’s most important responsibilities is to develop team members. Leaders know that each person never reaches their full potential. Each time a person grows to a new level of effectiveness or skill, we see that there are new possibilities on the horizon. Help your team members understand the importance of reflecting on the journey.
I’ll close with this thought: This concept about the importance of the journey is important to God, too. As it pertains to our sin nature, we are wiped clean at the moment of salvation (Ephesians 1:7). However, the process of becoming more Christ-like is a journey that takes all of our days until we are called home to eternity. For example, when Paul wrote to the believers in Philippi, he said, “I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
It’s apparent that God sees value in the journey, too. If He wanted his children to be perfect representations of Christ on this Earth, that would happen at the moment of salvation. It doesn’t.
The journey is important. Embrace it.
Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at]LeadStrategic.com with your questions.