Do Goals or Journeys Describe Your Life?

While reading two books at the same time, I discovered an interesting life discussion. Do we describe our lives and our accomplishments in terms of goals achieved or in terms of journeys experienced? Sometimes it’s an all or nothing and at other times it is a mixture of goal-oriented travel that allows us to experience the journey. Do goals or journeys describe your life?

Book 1: Touching the Void by Joe Simpson (1988). This story of two mountain climbers shows how being goal-focused can be helpful or how it can become life threatening when we fail to pay attention to the warning signs of the journey. Early in the book, Simpson reminds us of the importance of dreams and of setting new goals when original goals are accomplished. Here’s Simpson’s reminder sentence: “If you succeed with one dream, you come back to square one and it’s not long before you’re conjuring up another, slightly harder, a bit more ambitious – a bit more dangerous.”

Book 2: Shifting Sands by Steve Donahue (2004). Donahue tells the story of two travelers crossing the Sahara Desert. While weaving the tale of his personal transitions into the Sahara crossing story, Donahue illustrates multiple metaphors about managing life’s challenging deserts of change. The chapter titles illustrate the metaphors. For example:

Prologue Title: Are you crossing a desert or climbing a mountain? This poses the question of whether we enjoy the journey or strive to achieve goals.
Chapter 2: Stop at every oasis. This chapter captured my attention and imagination because it prompts the question of whether we are taking enough time to rest, relax and reflect in order to refuel for the next part of our journey.
Chapter 3: When you’re stuck, Deflate. If you’ve done any desert off-roading, you’ve likely experienced this. When the sand is deep, a vehicle moves better if the tires are significantly deflated so that more tire surface area is available to help move the vehicle forward. The act of deflating takes on many personal meanings and applications in this chapter.

Each of the six chapters in Donahue’s book provides a desert story and a metaphor for reflection and application in our own lives. My discovery after reading the two books is this: I used to be more focused on goals, and now I keep the goals in mind and focus on enjoying the journeying process that leads to the goal accomplishment.

Both books are interesting reads and appeal to different readers. Simpson’s book is a classic outdoor adventure story, full of detailed climbing information. Donahue’s book is a tale and an invitation to reflect on our own lives in order to live more meaningful lives in the midst of change.

Action Plan: Consider your main approach to life: goal-setting or journeying. Also, pick up one of these books or another that prompts you to think about the balance of your personal and professional lives and investments.

Touching the Void BUY BOOK button

Shifting Sands BUY BOOK button – link to

Reprint Permission: The author is willing to grant reprint permissions. Please contact Jana Kemp: or call 208-367-1701.

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