Chapter 9: The journey is the destination


We have this saying in German “Der Weg ist das Ziel”, which taken literally translates to:

The journey is the destination

Recently, this saying has been on my mind a lot. Contemplating about it, I realised that as a child, even as a teenager, I never truly understood what it meant. Of course, I understood the single words and their meaning. I also believed to grasp the entire message conveyed by these five words. But the reality is that I had only been scratching the surface without advancing to the depth of wisdom hidden within; for the longest time I had been convinced that the only message to be taken away from it was something like the following:

The work invested into achieving a goal, represent a bigger accomplishment than the final success of this very same goal.

Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.

Arthur Ashe

This is how I used to interpret the saying (quite along the lines of Arthur Ashe), without seeing more to it. By no means is this interpretation off-track, or an incorrect description of what the author (whoever actually came up with it) was trying to say. Nevertheless, my previous understanding only captured the face value of this little saying, and I had not made enough effort to explore and genuinely identify with the roots of this philosophy.

So, while I was able to interpret this saying correctly on a surface level, I had not actively felt it, experienced it, embodied it, and thus, I had not understood it in its full depth. I guess one of the reasons that kept me from uncovering its meaning is that I did not live through my daily actions consciously enough. But living more mindful has allowed me to make better, and coherent sense out of those five words:

The journey is the destination

I know, I know, the more often you say it, the more it sounds like a magic spell. So, let’s not waste more words on the prologue and let’s finally get to the ground of it.

Main Chapter

We all have dreams we strive towards. We set goals on a regular basis and it is important to do so. Having goals keeps us motivated. Goals can provide us with a feeling of purpose – one fundamental component of happiness and resilience. It is therefore natural for us to assume that our biggest achievement lies in the successful accomplishment of a goal. There is no better feeling in the world than crossing the finishing line, we believe. But while the feeling of fulfilling a goal indeed radiates like a rich glow within our soul, it is fallacy to believe that reaching the end destination represents our biggest accomplishment. The actual accomplishment constitutes the long, hard road that has led us towards our goal.

Try framing it from the following perspective: Reaching a goal marks a rather short-lived moment. In contrast, all the work and effort we have invested into reaching our goal spans over a much longer time period. It can be days, months, sometimes years passing by before we manage to tick the box on our little list of personal goals. Consequently, the journey towards any goal always encompasses a much more diverse, long-lasting, intense mix of emotions than hitting the home stretch does. All the rocks on the road that have made us break a sweat; all the unforeseen bends and bottlenecks we had to drive through; with every beautiful, sometimes unexpected, scenic view we got to enjoy on our way – it is all of that which shaped our journey, engraving landmarks into our hearts.

Of course, the journey will not always be easy and pleasant. But trying to chase after the accomplishment of your goal as fast and as convenient as possible will make you miss out on some of the most valuable lessons. If all you worry about is when you will finally make it to your end destination, you risk missing out on all the hidden sights along the way.

The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction not a destination.

Carl Rogers

Embark onto your journey with the ability to enjoy every little step you are taking on it. True accomplishment lies in every moment that makes you grow and develop. The journey taken towards a goal will create so many memories of personal transcendence that can nourish your soul for many years to come. Whenever you will get some time to reflect, you will look back onto these roads that you have wandered on in your earlier days and it will make you feel proud. You will perhaps smile thinking about how foolish and silly you were back then. You will probably find it funny, or even hard to believe, what kind of problems had caused you despair back then as these problems seem so insignificant and small to you now.

Reflecting upon your journey, you will realise that your perception has been, and in fact always will be, consistently changing with every new impression collected along the way. Every new step does not only bring you closer to your goal, it also allows your abilities as well as your knowledge to advance. Remember that your personal change and inner growth only happens when you are still moving, walking on the road towards your destination. Once you stop moving though, you will not progress any further. Although the final arrival at your destination may mark a milestone of your personal development, it is inherently ending your growth.  

If you can’t fly, then run, if you can’t walk run, then walk, if you can’t walk, then crawl, but by all means keep moving.

Martin Luther King Jr


At both the starting point and the end point of any goal you embody a static version of yourself, whereas you are dynamically moving during all the time that lies in between. During this time between the start and the finish, your hard work takes you forward step by step. It is hence the journey that manifests your greatest accomplishment.

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