Whenever my schedule permits, I thoroughly enjoy listening to podcasts. One that I am particularly fond of is the TED Radio Hour. I recently listened to the segment entitled, “To Endure.” As usual, they had assembled three compelling speakers to share their stories of endurance. The segment that I want to focus on in this blog is that of Ben Saunders. For those who may have never heard of Ben, he is a polar explorer. In this particular TED talk he shares his experience trying to replicate the Scott Expedition to the South Pole (Scott was first to discover the South Pole). While the entire interview is well worth listening to, one learning of Saunders caught my attention. As he describes it,
“What this long walk taught me is that happiness is not a finish line.
If we cannot feel content on our journey’s,
amidst the mess and the striving that we all inhabit,
the open loops, the half-finished to-do lists,
then we might never feel it.”
While many of us may never embark on a polar expedition, we all have goals – some we set and some are set for us. Take a moment, think about a goal you’ve recently completed. For the purpose of this exercise, the goal itself is less relevant – whether it be hitting a revenue target, saving for something special, quitting smoking, or getting a promotion. My bet is that you had that momentary exhilaration of, YES, I DID IT! And then you reflected, perhaps a bit in awe, of your ability to actually make it happen. And, even if you fell short of the goal, as Saunders asserts he did in this expedition, you are still able to learn so much about the person you’ve become along the way.
To illustrate, let’s explore the example of getting a promotion. Whether or not you got the promotion, my bet is that you may have explored one or more of these trails on your ‘long walk,’ perhaps raised your hand to participate on high visibility project teams, offered to take on new responsibilities, trained others on the team, and showcased your accomplishments differently. And yet we become so focused on attaining the goal that we lose sight of all that we are learning about ourselves and the world around us, simply by making the effort. The gift of pausing along the walk and reflecting is that you are able to see how far you’ve come, how much you’ve learned, and how you may be changing because of the journey.
As Saunders’ story illustrates, the goal isn’t the finish line, it’s just a guide post on your journey. It’s about discovering more of your self; more of what you’re capable of; more of your potential. So, how will you identify and work toward goals that bring you closer to realizing your best self?