“Many are stubborn in pursuit of the path they have chosen. Few in pursuit of the goal.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

Why does that matter? Because as circumstances change, the path has to change. Your objective, your destination, remains the same, but the path you need to take to get there has to take account of unforeseen obstacles, newly-visible short cuts, etc. Obstinately pursuing the original path may lead you into unnecessary difficulties or delays, or even to somewhere different altogether. Of course that assumes that you knew where you were going in the first place. In my experience, often people are unwilling or even unable to define their goals really clearly. If you don’t do that, all you have left to cling to is the path you have chosen – even when it is leading you to the wrong place!

I’ve been told that, faced with an impending pile-up on the road in front of you, you are most likely to avoid it if you keep your eyes on the space you need to drive into, not on the car you are about to hit – but to do so is very hard! Similarly, being flexible enough to adapt the path you take through change, while keeping your eyes on the ultimate goal, is most likely to deliver what you wanted. Most of my work is concerned with ‘soft’ projects where the ability to flex when circumstances change is key. Nietsche captured the problem beautifully.

Has one comment to “Which matters more, the path or the goal?”

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  1. thebusinessdude - 28, Jul, 2013 Reply

    “Begin with the end in mind.” Covey

    If we do not have the destination or the vision state we will, as you said, cling to the path. For many people the path, as long as we have the goal, is just as important. The path is an entire learning event and by understanding how we get there we can refine the goal accordingly. The path often explains why the goal is not met. The path is also a good way to eliminate waste – can we get from a to c without b?

    Good article.

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