Process, goal, context, and a train trip to Seward


I don’t care the rules you bend,

You must consider the means and the end.

     As well as the context

     And whatever will come next.

And, of course, the message you send.

In general, people are either process oriented or goal oriented, and many conflicts come from failure to account for the difference.  Some people want to talk to solve a problem, some want to talk so that they can talk, and will manufacture a problem so that a discussion follows.  Some patients want care, not cure, and will keep coming in because they like the doctor visit more than they want to get better.  For some, the trip is more important than the destination.

Bethany and I took the train to Seward today. 

Les took us to the train station this morning in the darkness, still a relief to the eyes after the eight weeks of unrelenting daylight in Barrow. 

Had we borrowed a car, the trip would have taken two hours, rather than four.  We chose the train for the experience.

In January of 1973 I decided to become a doctor, knowing that the road ahead would be long and difficult.  I embraced it.  I enjoyed being a student, even the emotional case-hardening in the fire of the clinical years.  I reveled in being a doctor, and now that I have graduated (not retired) I’m absolutely loving it.

Had I enjoyed the process of playing scales, my musical career goals might have gone differently. 

The truth is that goal and process, journey and destination, are equally important.  The ends cannot be separated from the means.  Neither can be separated from context.  

The train ride was as important as the time we wandered around the town.  From the observation dome we saw glaciers and gorges we wouldn’t have otherwise seen.   We had a very good fish lunch. We walked along the shore under gloomy skies and marveled at the sea otters (we saw five).  Then (contrast being the essence of meaning) we went to the Sea Life Center where we watched fish swimming. 

The context, this phase of my career where I am slowing down, is inseparable from the experience.

This weekend I had a conversation with a teacher.  While we chatted I deduced that he had chosen that career later in life.  When I talked about how much of my business as a doctor comes from tobacco and alcohol (about sixty percent) he revealed that his experience as a lawyer was similar.  I asked if he were a lot happier since he had left the legal profession, and he tossed his head back, laughed, and said with a grin, “Yes.  A lot.”

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