There’s always a moment when you achieve a big goal. Whether it’s typing the last word of a book or stepping off the plane and into a new country, it can be the most fulfilling feeling in the world.
Other times, it’s just. . .not.
Frankly, some goals can be anticlimactic. Despite the time and effort you put into them, they feel a little flat, or they just don’t turn out how you expected. But I go out of my way to remember those goals. I specifically keep them on my life list, because I think they can teach me an important lesson.
The latest goal I crossed off said life list was visiting Prague on my European modeling tour. Actually, being able to see the city was one of the main reasons why I decided to go on the trip in the first place.
Seeing Prague had been a dream of mine since I first read Milan Kundera. Granted, wanting to visit a city because of a writer most people have never heard of may be a particularly nerdy reason to travel. But his descriptions of Prague made me feel like I already knew the city. Further research just made it sound even better. I read about the weird statues. The oldest working astronomical clock. The tree-lined parks. The cobblestone walkways. The castle perched on top of the hill.
Don’t get me wrong: Prague was still a beautiful city. I saw the clock and the ridiculous sculptures. I walked the cobblestone streets and explored the parks with their winter-barren trees. And I did find a great (literally) underground coffee shop where I could eavesdrop on people debating literature and philosophy in Czech.
But it wasn’t what I had imagined. Prague’s rebellion during the Prague Spring and then the collapse of the Soviet Union had left it poor and dependent on tourism, like much of Eastern Europe. Most of the intellectuals had fled with the rise of communism and never returned. Its days of being a bohemian mecca were over, at least for now.
So on the surface, Prague was a bit of a letdown. Still amazing, but not the pinnacle life experience that I had expected out of the trip.
And then I went to Paris.
First, let me give you a little bit of background about Paris and I. Every time someone found out I would be modeling in Paris, it was the same response: “Oh, you’ll love it!” It didn’t matter what other destinations I listed with it; Paris was the one that everyone latched onto.
I refused to believe them. I was not a Paris type of girl—I hated the city on principle. To me, Paris was about clichés. It was cheap souvenirs covered in stylized drawings of the Eiffel tower. I was going to Paris for work, and work only. It was a stepping-stone to support the rest of the trip. I vowed to do nothing touristy. If I didn’t see the Eiffel tower the entire time I was there, I’d consider it a success.
As much as I hate to admit it, I was wrong. I loved Paris. No, I fell in love with Paris. It was the bohemian city I had wanted to experience. And yes, I even saw the Eiffel tower—from a distance.
So why is it important to complete big goals, even if they don’t turn out as well as you’d planned? Because while pursuing them, you’re constantly exposed to new ideas and experiences. Without that push to see Prague, I would have never stumbled into Paris, or the hundred other new ideas, tastes, sights, smells, skills, and confidence that the trip gave me.
In a very real way, the outcome of a big goal doesn’t really matter—actually, it’s often the goals that didn’t turn out like you wanted that are the most fruitful in the long run. They push you out of your comfort zone, challenge your beliefs, and force you to be creative and try new things. And that’s where you get the most growth.
In the end, it’s not about crossing a goal off of a list. It’s what you learn from attempting a goal that really matters.
It’s all about progress.