Learned: The journey matters

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(HOST) Commentator Andrea Learned has been thinking about the paths people and organizations take toward more sustainable practices, and she reminds us to engage with the journey.

(LEARNED) T.S. Eliot once said, "The journey not the arrival matters." It’s a quote that demonstrates a truth I’ve come to appreciate in many ways. For one thing, it describes my own meandering career path.  And these days, "journey" seems to be a fitting word to describe the paths both businesses and humans take toward a greater eco-awareness – and a more sustainable future.

In the past, I’ve avoided using the word "journey" altogether, thinking it too self-help or touchy-feely.  But lately I’ve begun to understand that most positive change in life comes from various steps toward a goal – and rarely from a single dramatic transition.

In my career of marketing to women I’ve learned that buying something tends to be complex for women and more linear for men. The stop & start, turn right or left, or circle back of a woman’s typical purchase process seems very journey-like to me.  Along that winding way, both sides of the brain are used – with decisions influenced by both fact and emotion.  And, in that very journey-like manner, sometimes the consumer doesn’t end up where she expected to be at all.

In the case of sustainable practices – I see both men and women walking similar paths.

Any human who is even remotely eco-aware is experiencing a journey toward a more responsible way of living.   But, the steps aren’t straightforward – and not all people will take the same ones or arrive on time, if ever. Let’s face it: It is extremely difficult to become the "Perfect Green Human" overnight.  We have to settle for a longer process.

But remember – it’s the Journey, Not the Arrival that matters most.

With each step in this new direction – more people will become engaged, and we’ll learn as we go: from recycling or switching cleaning products to better insulating our
homes, installing solar panels and avoiding unnecessary travel.

Who gets to the end of the journey first and best has long been the rule by which our culture has operated.  But in this case, success is a moving target.  It’s always just around the next corner, and these days seems to be moving faster than ever.  So, we can simply stay put, OR we can decide to enjoy the journey more.

Current market forces suggest that consumers are now leading the sustainable living charge – and forcing the world around them to switch from the goal-striving mindset to the journey-experiencing mindset.

This may be partially due to the lackluster economy, which has done wonders for inspiring self-reflection.   People are taking more responsibility for their circumstances. They are looking to connect more with each other, with environmental issues and even with brands – on a more human scale, step-by-step.

Everyone knows significant change takes time, but if we walk side by side and encourage one another on this path to sustainable living, the journey itself will change us.

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