Purpose, Goals, Destinations

目的地 [mokutekichi] destination: combines

目的 (purpose, aim, objective, goal) and

地 (ground), as in map「地図」(chizu) or underground/subway「地下鉄」(chikatetsu).

目的地: I imagine the X that marks the spot on the map where we aim to go. Ground zero.

We are advised to have goals, to move forward with purpose, toward a preconceived destination.

Goals as a Polestar, Not a Destination

When I think of goals, especially design goals, I’ve gotten in the habit of thinking of what I want ultimately and then preparing myself to make a lot of trade-offs. Before I even begin, I’m readying myself for disappointment.

That’s the reality of design, isn’t it? Prioritizing elements of functionality against the realities of executing the design. Balancing desire against constraints, be they time, money, or ability. Constraints create the box we designers are always told to think outside of when imagining solutions. However, when it comes to implementing our solutions, the box closes in on us. At some point we have to get real, right?

Chicago Skyline in the Fog

Traveling Beyond the Known

I realized that I’ve had another kind of implementation experience. One where reality doesn’t fall short of imagination but rather pushes beyond it. This usually happens in the best and most creative collaborations, working with someone whose ideas feed off yours and propel you both beyond what either person initially and separately conceived as possible.

How can we make that happen more often?

Maybe, too, the focus on destination creates its own restrictions. Maybe we should just follow the road and see where it takes us. After all, if we reach our destination, what will we do then? Is that the end of the road?

By the way, the pleasure of writing this post was in how it enabled me to bring together three disparate parts of my life. I knew when I was wandering around in Chicago that I would use this photo to illustrate some point (that is, post). I’m also deep in the middle of a design phase of a project and trying not to get discouraged by focusing so much on the trade-offs that I forget to be open to other possibilities, or even redefining my goals. Finally, playing with language a little each day gives me a chance to think about the concepts that words convey.

Quite fittingly, and is so often the case, where I ended up by the time I finished writing this meditation is not where I thought I was headed.

GPlus Discussion

Meirav M. – 2014-11-02 09:33:44-0500 – Updated: 2014-11-02 09:34:57-0500+M Sinclair Stevens Yes, I think that’s exactly it – to shift focus once in a while, not to be always working just one way. I think you and I come at this from opposite directions as your personality type tends more towards structure and mine tends more towards chaos, so for you the interesting challenge is letting go of structure once in a while and going with where the road takes you, whereas for me it’s the other way round – once in a while it does me good to have some structure imposed on me.

All good! (and yes, it does seem very fitting the way this meditation worked for you!)

paul beard  Nov 2, 2014 Constraints drive creativity. As in, how can I accomplish X with the resources I have. 

M Sinclair Stevens – 2014-11-02 22:33:34-0500 – Updated: 2014-11-02 22:33:50-0500+paul beard If we’re going to continue with the road analogies, I guess this topic has taken a detour. While constraints do force one to be creative, I take that as a given. The word of the day is destination and the realization that when I aim for a goal, not only do I often fall short but that I’ve fallen short so often that I now habitually begin with what some might term a defeatist attitude. It hasn’t always been thus.  I remember some projects that turned out differently, where a collaboration took me further than I had initially conceived. That was amazing. And so I wondered if focusing too intently on the goal was another kind of self-imposed limitation.

paul beard  Nov 2, 2014 Sorry to derail the thread. If you know the destination, then the journey itself is all you have control over, the how and why, how fast or how indirect. Your constraints might be time and money or the options available on the route. What you see along the way is a secondary destination, one you can choose regardless of the final one. 

M Sinclair Stevens – 2014-11-02 23:13:11-0500+paul beard No need for an apology. I hope I didn’t sound snappish…that wasn’t my intention. I like tangents! I find them to be revealing. The fact that the conversation moved to a discussion of constraints made me think that I didn’t communicate my original epiphany very clearly. Or maybe it wasn’t very insightful to anyone else. Or maybe I tried to talk about too many things all at once.

The conversation gives me the opportunity to try explaining my point from a different angle. Maybe no one else cares at this point but it’s good exercise for me. The practice helps me clarify my thinking to me.

The sad fact is that lately I’ve come to see the design process as a series of compromises and trade-offs. Which it often is. But lately I’ve been too focused on the negatives which have resulted in a sense of disappointment: I want X but will probably only be able to get to W. However, in my past I’ve been in collaborative situations where solving design problems took us beyond our original vision. I wanted X and another person wanted Y and when we tried to work out our differences, for the first time we both were able to conceive of Z. What had seemed like the final goal (X) was just a milestone on the path to a new destination which had initially not occurred to either of us. Wow!

I want to find that sense of excitement again, that sense of possibility.