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Path, Journey or Destination–How to Choose What to Focus On

Too often our decisions focus on the outcome, the destination. Sometimes you want to focus on the path or the journey instead.

When making a decision, ask yourself what is most important: choosing the best option, having the best experience or creating the best outcome?

Not all decisions will have the same answer.

Drill deeper and ask yourself what the best option, experience or outcome might look like.

For instance:

  • Option (Path)
    The fastest option? The cheapest option? The one you like the most? Some combination of these?
  • Experience (Journey)
    The easiest option to implement? The most pleasurable? The one that requires the fewest changes (or the most)?
  • Outcome (Destination)
    The option that creates the best result? The one with the best chance of succeeding? The one with the highest return-on-investment (ROI)?

These affect each other, but it’s useful to pick one to focus on.

Focusing on the Path (Option)

Your perception of your choice affects your experience. All the bubblegum balls taste the same. But when we choose our favorite color, that color somehow tastes better.

Focus on your options when the experience and outcome will be about the same no matter what option you choose. Or when you can’t predict what the experience or outcome will be.

But be careful. Optimizing for options can cause unexpected consequences—the “best” camera may not give you the best experience or produce the best photos for your situation.

Focusing on the Journey (Experience)

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “Life is a journey, not a destination”. Decisions are often the same.

The camera that produces the best photos may be difficult or annoying to operate. Often the experience of implementing a decision trumps the outcome.

For short journeys and quick implementations, you can often ignore the experience and focus on the outcome. But for long journeys, take into consideration the journey as well as the outcome. The cost to implementing decisions, both financial and psychological, can be significant.

Focusing on the Destination (Outcome)

In the end, we make decisions to achieve goals. For important goals, the destination can be more important than the journey.

When focusing on the outcome, decide whether you want to maximize your chance of achieving the outcome, the size of the outcome or the timeframe for achieving the outcome. Rarely can you maximize all three.

What decisions have you made where you choose the journey over the destination? How did it turn out?

Credits: The photo used in this article was taken by Tim Green.

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