10 years ago I came across a feel-good little essay by Robert Hastings called The Station. We see these “don’t forget what’s import in life” reminders frequently enough that they become almost-meaningless cliches, but for some reason this one really struck me and stuck with me. It’s easy to see how it relates to 4HWW, but I’m going to expand on it a bit. For starters, let’s translate the “journey vs destination” theme into more boring productivity-speak: process vs outcome.

When setting a goal, I find it helpful to clearly define whether the goal is process- or outcome-oriented. For example “I’m going to work out 3 times a week during September” is the process, and “I’m going to lose 10 pounds in September” is the outcome. You might often hear that goals should be specific. My preference is to set loose outcome goals and strong, specific process goals. This might sound like I’m just saying “set a goal and then set sub-goals to get you there.” But it’s more than that.

Too often we look at the final result and think “yeah! that’s what I want!” without realizing the hours (or years) of hard work, frustration, or complete drudgery that goes into it. Building your custom dream home might seem glamorous, but ask somebody that’s gone through it how much they enjoyed the process, and if the end result was everything they imagined it would be. Likewise, you might think you want to run a marathon “just to say you did it.” If you hate running as much as I do, you might want to choose something you actually enjoy practicing as much as daydreaming about the end result.

My point (unlike The Station) is not that you should focus more on one than the other. However, it is helpful to define and recognize which is which. Next time you have a new aspiration, ask yourself what it is about it that really appeals to you, and perhaps you’ll shift your actions a bit to better meet that desired endpoint.

Any effort that has self-glorification as its final endpoint is bound to end in
disaster.

– Robert Pirsig, from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance