I’d be lying if I said that I was perfect at this. What’s this, you ask? It’s the idea of loving the process and not the destination. I am so guilty of not always thinking I deserved to take in the view until I get to the top, and even then – only for a second. When was the last time you truly celebrated your achievements? If I asked you how much you enjoy the journey, would you really say that you love the process? So many of us get stuck on this treadmill trying to get to the next thing when really we’re missing life happening right in front of us right now. Today we’re talking about how to reconstruct the way you think about your process so that you can have fun along the way, not waiting for the arrival of the next big thing before you can take a breath and say, “life really IS good.”
Why don’t we love the process?
We’ve heard it before: life’s a journey, not a destination. But why, when we know these things, is it so hard for us to actually believe them? Raise your hand if you’re sitting here thinking, “oh no – May’s got me. I’m waiting for my next promotion, raise, life event, revenue goal or vacation before I really let myself celebrate or take a breath.” You’re not crazy for feeling this way. You’re perfectly normal. I’ll explain why.
When you set a goal, you often focus on the final destination. You will have <insert achievement> and this is the goal. We’re focused on the outcome because that’s what we’ve been trained to do. We give ourselves incentives to hit the end goal. We structure our bonuses and rewards based upon this outcome. There’s nothing wrong with this approach. We want people and ourselves to be creative and figure out how the heck we can make this happen. How do I make this sale, hit this number, create this solution or prioritize our family? When we focus on the outcomes we create an ability to be nimble and come up with multiple solutions to hit the goal.
What trips us up along the way is that we’re so laser-focused on the thing we want to achieve, that we forget that life is happening right here right now. We think that we need to never let our guard down, never be satisfied, constantly have hunger for the next big thing in order for us to keep our foot on the gas. This is the achievement orientation. Again, nothing wrong here but a side effect of this orientation is that you may end up discounting all of the effort, time, and experiences you have along the way. Anything that doesn’t count towards your goals no longer matters. It’s a feeling that you actually want life to fly on by until you get to your destination. The vacation, trip, promotion, raise, revenue goal, or award IS the best part of our lives.
How then do we balance the two? How do we keep ourselves motivated to achieve, while feeling fulfilled in the moment. In the space between where you are today and where it is you want to go, how do we find satisfaction and not disappointment? Sometimes our goals take a long time to achieve. Sometimes our goals change along the way because life changes. What then? Are we only going to be living our fullest lives in the peaks? The vast majority of our lives then feeling like a list of to-do’s to just get us somewhere else. Anywhere except where we are right now.
What’s the myth?
The myth around achievement is that your life has to be terrible in order for you to want more. I’m not as interested in what it takes to improve your life when it’s terrible, because that’s what makes sense to everyone. We all understand that when you have no money, friends, safety, or freedom, you have every right to want more from life and to work towards it. We can easily see that every step taken to improve brings fulfillment and momentum. But what happens when life is already pretty good and you’re still wanting to see how much more amazing it can be? That’s when it stops making sense to other people. Why rock the boat? You start feeling like the odd man out because other people are satisfied with status quo and you’re not.
Why this is interesting is because when you’re not getting your juice of encouragement from the outside world, you start to build it internally. You say things to yourself about how bad things are so that you will get yourself moving in the direction of your dreams and what you really want in your life. You essentially start to create the narrative that right here right now is terrible so that we feel justified to seek the next best thing.This is a pattern that we’ve seen work in our lives to get us from our first job to our second job, our first relationship to our second relationship – and it’s worked. But that type of thinking will give you success, but not enduring fulfillment. I’m more interested in how to continuously expand our abilities while also living our most expansive lives all along the way.
Who do we need to be?
How do we do this? Instead of feeding yourself this narrative that everything is bad and that’s what it takes to get your into the mode of action, feed yourself this narrative instead: Things are amazing but why not see what happens if I pursued this goal? We are now focused on a different type of identity. Not someone who is tied to this goal, but someone who is tied to the pursuit. The goal is what gets you there, but the pursuit is what you really need to curate as deeply as you curate your goals.
This pursuit will be focused instead on this one question, “who is the person I will need to become in order to achieve this goal?”
If you can answer this question and be aligned with the desire to truly BE that person, then you have yourself a goal worthy of your pursuit. This does not mean that everything you do in your pursuit will feel good and comfortable! But what it does mean is that you can go back to that one question and say, this is part of becoming this person. You say things like, “This challenge is part of my journey to become more and more of the person I came into this world to live into.”
What do we really need to love the process?
In order to love the process, we need a couple things:
- A reminder of the person you want to become. This is your why. When I started coaching, blogging, going on social media, podcasting and all the things an entrepreneur does to do the work and manage the work, I was not loving the process. It was a lot of work and I cannot tell you how many times I said to myself, if only I could just do one thing it would be a whole lot easier. If I just stopped this work, only worked my corporate job, my life would be simpler and I’d have so much more free time on my hands. This is true, right? Do less and have more time. But what kept me going was the reminder that as difficult, tedious, or frustrating as this was at times, I loved how much I was learning and expanding. I had to look at ways constantly to do things that I knew would make me uncomfortable. I’d have to find better ways to manage my time. I’d have to truly focus on the work when it was time. I’d have to learn to LOVE the process so that I can sustain it. I’d have to essentially reinvent myself and become a different person in order to do this well and that challenge was an exciting one. Who could I be? Who do I want to be? What if it was as easy as deciding to become that person
- To build in joy before the arrival. There’s no worse person to be around at work or in your life than that person who never smiles, celebrates, laughs or has fun. Don’t be that person. Yes, life is difficult. Yes, there is a ton of pain and suffering in store for all of us. Yes, we truly do and will feel stuck, confused, lost and alone. But, we decided when we get to have the prize or the reward for our hard work and if we made that decision, we can also decide that we want to have fun along the way. What does that mean? For me, it meant that I would shorten my time horizon and think of what actually went right that day. It also meant that I would conscientiously think of ways I could make today fun. Fun is not reserved for special occasions. You’re alive. Well that’s a celebration. As crazy as it sounds, we completely made up the idea of holidays, celebrations, birthday parties and the like. We create these artificial peaks of social gatherings or displays of affection and we feel the good feelings when we hit that day. But don’t you think it’s a bit arbitrary? Why not feel good the day before your birthday? Why does your birthday have a feeling to it? Why can’t today, this second, this conversation, this moment feel good? I’m listening to a podcast, hooray. Fun and success are not mutually exclusive. I grew up thinking I had to be serious about everything in order to be successful at everything. But this is no way to live. And it’s truly no way to be a whole person. You, me and everyone else wants to be whole. Our wholeness looks like joy and sadness, achievements and failures – a lot of ANDs and not either or. So realize that you can not be at your goal, but you’re still ok and maybe even better than ok. You can still be on your way to the achievement and achieving. It’s not the process OR the destination. It’s the process AND the destination.
In summary, have fun and audacious goals but also remind yourself of who you are becoming in the process so that all these micro-steps along the way are celebrated. You don’t have to martyr yourself in order to achieve. Adding extra suffering and pain is not required in order for you to be serious about growth. You can be both full of joy AND determination. And you can definitely focus on both the process AND the destination.
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