New Research Confirms the Cheesiest Cliché About Success
Turns out life truly is about the journey, not the destination
You‘ve seen this chestnut a million times: “Life is about the journey, not the destination.” It’s on inspirational posters in your gym and the hallway of your kid’s school. It’s in an Instagram caption for a photo of an influencer on a beach somewhere. It’s stitched on a pillow at your grandmother’s house.
It’s also — don’t roll your eyes — actually useful advice. That’s the conclusion of a recent study out of Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, in which marketing researchers surveyed more than 1,600 people about the metaphors they used to think about their goals.
Compared to people who used the destination framing or no metaphor at all, the study authors found those who used the journey framing were significantly more likely to continue with the good habits they’d developed — even after meeting their initial goal.
Reaching a goal isn’t just about success; it’s also about process.
“If I think about this as a journey from where I started to where I am today, with all the ups and downs, it can help me see how much I have actually changed,” says Szu-Chi Huang, one of the co-authors of the study, which was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Attitudes and Social Cognition. And that hindsight can be a powerful motivator, she says: If your goal is to get in shape, for example, “[The journey mindset] drives me to continue eating healthy and working out, even after I reach the destination.”
The research backs what we intuitively know: Reaching a goal isn’t just about success — it’s also about process.
Thinking about all the ups and inevitable downs of a journey can also help you bounce back after a setback. That’s a vital part of creating healthy habits, according to the decision-science researcher Alan Barnard, who studies habit formation and decision-making (he was uninvolved with the Stanford study). If you’re trying to make a change, one of the things that can get in your way is the stress you feel when you stumble.