We often look at journeys in our life as a means of growth or learning. However, we often overlook the way we approach the journey.
Here’s the idea –
There are two ways we could approach journeys in our life. One way is linear in which we move from point A to point B.
Another way is circular in which we move from point A back to point A, realizing Ax. I’ll explain the “A squared” symbolism in a bit.
What’s the difference? Let’s explore the shapes in detail.
The line represents a defined start and finish. This is how most of us think about education and experiences. We have a starting point and an intended outcome or finish line.
For example, we start a new book with the intention to learn something. We finish the book, consider the knowledge received, and then put the book back on the shelf.
Primary education can also be a linear journey. We’re put in classrooms at age 5, given instruction for 13 years, and then graduated around age 18. Our schooling is considered complete.
Linear journeys often represent normal growth. Going from point A to point B teaches us something new and then we close that chapter. We consider the growth received and leave the journey.
Normal growth reflects new learning.
The circle represents a cycle. This is how we move through experiences without a defined start and finish, but rather a deeper opportunity to learn. We have an entry point into the circle, and then we do cycles to build more awareness and understanding.
For example, pursuing personal growth is a circular journey. I would argue that there is no way to reach a true end point or finish line in personal growth. It’s a continuous pursuit that evolves. After you do one cycle around the circle you will have a new perspective or understanding, and then it’s time to pursue another cycle.
Learning piano is another form of a circular journey. You might do a cycle to learn foundational principles, and then repeat new cycles to learn more advanced techniques. Learning any type of instrument, sport or skill could be considered a circular journey. You can never really “finish” the understanding and mastery of such pursuits.
Circular journeys can represent exponential growth. Doing cycles offers deeper learning that compounds from previous learning. Our capacity has expanded with room for more growth on the journey.
Exponential growth reflects deep learning.
Living in Circular Journeys
Life can become really fascinating and liberating if we embrace more circular journeys. Or stated another way, if we recognize that there’s always something more to learn. I think this is extremely relevant to situations where we’re taught that education is defined on a line.
A few examples:
- It’s easy to think you learned something new from a book.
But what if you read it again, or revisited a core concept, and then realized something profound? What if it taught you something entirely new in a different season of life?
- It’s easy to think your parenting role might end when your children leave the house.
But what if your best parenting experiences are yet to come as your children enter their own stages of adulthood? What if you could connect with them at a deeper level and learn amazing things?
- It’s easy to think your role in a business ends after you exit it.
But what if that was simply a cycle in your larger entrepreneurial journey? What if that was meant to spark purpose in your next endeavor?
As you can see, it’s mainly a mindset shift. Our perspective of journeys is shaped by needing closure. We are able to comprehend things more easily when there’s a defined start and end. That’s why we conditioned to create things with linear journeys.
That’s great, and I think linear journeys have their place, but I also think there’s a lot more growth that happens on circular journeys. I think we find exciting things when we go beyond the line, when we head into new cycles with an open mind. That’s where we can experience deeper learning. That’s where we can experience exponential growth.
In that light I will leave you with a question to ponder –
What’s something you thought you “finished” that you could still learn from?
– or –
What’s a linear journey you took that might actually be a circular journey?
Ali is a creator who's passionate about coaching people through desired self transformation. That's a fancy way of saying he wants to help people do their inner work. He's a father, husband, podcaster, blogger, technologist and many other things that inspire him to stay curious and learn. He's also a huge advocate for nature, hiking, adventure, testing physical limits and experiencing the natural world.