The Journey of Life

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Feb 13, 2010

"It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters in the end."
Krsala K. LeGuin

There is an old story in the Bible about a fight between the twin brothers, Jacob and Esau. Esau was an outdoorsman; Jacob preferred to stay at home. One day the outdoorsman came home famished and he smelled the soup his brother had just made. Because he was famished, Esau demanded a bowl of soup but Jacob refused to give it to him. 

Jacob said, "First sell me your birthright." He would only serve soup to Esau if Esau bought it with his birthright...which he did. The moral of the story is clear. Esau sacrificed the permanent on the altar of the immediate. 

On the journey of life, it is sometimes very hard to decide between the immediate and the long term. Do we not usually prefer today's ease for today's short term enjoyment rather than today's discipline for tomorrow's long term benefit? This could apply to going on a diet or getting an education or saving for retirement. The list is endless. 

The other day Evie's nail technician shared with her a fascinating insight he had come across on this subject. He quoted, "A balanced life is two parts journey; one part destination." I find that quote absolutely profound. We have all known those who make life 10 parts journey and no parts destination. They live for today and could care less about tomorrow. We know that kind of living will soon be met with great disappointment. 

On the other hand, we have also known those who make life no parts journey and 10 parts destination. These kinds of people are obsessed with their goals. They are driven to achieve for tomorrow. In the mean time, they can never eat an ice cream cone or go out for sports or take a vacation. 

Years ago a relative spoke of the times his daughters wanted to take an occasional detour on family vacations but his determination to arrive on schedule always prevented him from doing so. In his old age he deeply regretted those choices. 

As the journey of life unfolds, how can we make sure that doesn't happen to us? How can we cultivate a healthy balance between today and tomorrow? Here are a few suggestions to think about.

Be a Pioneer: Your journey may take you to places where you have never gone. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." 

Embrace Adversity: Your storms may not ruin everything. We all know that good timber grows best where the wind is the strongest. 

Pay Attention: Your insight is more important than your eyesight. Yogi Berra said, "You can observe a lot by watching." 

Enjoy the Mystery: Your mind may not understand everything. I love the words of Harry Emerson Fosdick, "I would rather live in a world where my life is surrounded by mystery than live in a world so small that my mind can comprehend it." 

Live Adventurously: Your courage must be strong so you are willing to try something new. As the proverb says, "One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time." 

Be Passionate: Your heart must be on fire. In the words of Confucius, "Wherever you go, go with all you heart." And as Judith Campbell said, "When your heart speaks, take good notes." 

Gain Perspective: Your wisdom is more important than your knowledge. As Richard Bach observed, "What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls a butterfly." 

So, where are you on your journey? Which part is for today and which part is for tomorrow? What part is journey and what part is destination? If we get our journey right, our destination will follow. 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
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