It seems like the best way to reach a desired result would be to focus on that result, try to move toward it, and judge each attempt by how closely you approximate it. But actually that approach is far from optimal. If you focus your attention and effort less on the results you’re hoping for and more on the processes and techniques you use, you will learn faster, become more successful, and be happier with the outcome.
By default we tend to be forward-looking, goal-pursuing, results-focused. Why? Because we’re wired for a discontentment with the present and a striving for a better future. Because results are easier to measure and evaluate than processes. Because we know others judge us based on results and we tend to care too much what others think.
When you are focused on the outcome and you attach your worth to the outcome, you will find yourself very resistant to trying new things and putting forth your best effort. When you define your worth by your performance rather than your effort, you stop yourself dead at the starting gate.
When your sense of worth is attached to the effort you make and putting forth your very best, then the process itself becomes exciting and rewarding, regardless of the outcome. In fact, people who define themselves through effort rather than outcomes do not think much about the outcome. While they have goals, and they certainly want to achieve their goals, they are not focused in the future on the goal. Instead, they are in the present moment, putting forth full effort in their desire to be all they can be.
If you find yourself stuck or blocked in your life in any area, look inside to see if your focus is on the outcome and on what people think of you, or if you are focused in the present moment, fully engaged in the process. Notice if you are telling yourself that your worth and intelligence are attached to outcomes and to what people think of you, or to fully expressing and manifesting your gifts and talents.
If you have never put forth full effort for fear of failure, you have no idea how deeply fulfilling it is to give your all to something. People who fear failure are afraid to give their all, because then if they fail, they can always say, “Well, I didn’t put in my all.” People who give their all and fail say, “I learned so much from this experience that will serve me well the next time.” We did not come to this planet to protect against failure.
But focusing on process rather than outcome is a much better strategy. Why?
- It eliminates the noise of external factors. Success can follow a flawed effort and failure can follow a flawless effort. In those cases, judging performance by outcome will reinforce the wrong techniques. You’ll achieve mastery of a new skill more quickly if you can learn to detect those cases and reinforce the correct processes whether or not they happened to lead to the desired outcome in that instance.
- It encourages experimentation. When you’re wholly focused on a specific desired result, you’re less willing to try long shots, less inclined to experiment, less open to serendipity, and less likely to stumble on an even better outcome than the one you were aiming for
- It lets you enjoy the process more. Life is lived in the present, not the future, and happiness is a process, not a place. Focusing on process will let you engage more deeply with the present and experience it more fully, which will help you learn faster and experience life more completely.
- It puts you in control. You have only partial control over whether you reach a specific external goal. But you have complete control over the process you use. Whether you give your best effort is entirely within your power. An internal locus of control leads to empowerment, higher self-esteem, and success, all of which contribute meaningfully to life satisfaction.
- It lets you enjoy and benefit more from whatever outcome does occur. In the long run things rarely turn out the way we expect them to. If your happiness is predicated on your success, and if your success is predicated on a specific outcome, you are setting yourself up for a high likelihood of frustration and disappointment. If you instead let go of the need for any particular outcome, you increase your chances for success and contentment. It’s fine to desire a certain outcome; just don’t make your happiness contigent on it. Instead, derive happiness from knowing that you gave every attempt your best effort.
- It will give you confidence. Not confidence that you’ll succeed in the current attempt, but confidence that you’re on the right path to mastery. You’ll worry less about the future because you’ll know that you’ll be happy regardless of the outcome of any given situation or event. You’ll be more free to get out of your comfort zone, to be spontaneous and take risks. And being unattached to a specific outcome means you won’t be needy, or get upset when things don’t go as you had hoped. The more you focus on process over outcome, the more confident you’ll become, and there’s nothing more attractive than confidence.
So how can you focus on process over outcome?
- Don’t pursue the rewards directly, trust that they will come. Focus on the process with diligence and effortful study, and let the outcome take care of itself.
- Stop worrying about what others will think of your performance.
- View each attempt as merely practice for the next attempt.
- Choose for yourself how to rate your performance. Rate yourself based on the effort, not the outcome. Don’t try to win today, try to become a winner. Be happier when your best effort results in defeat than when a weak effort results in victory. Determine what your best effort would look like, and then make it happen.
- Bring awareness to your performance, either during or immediately after it, so you can learn to identify when bad results follow good processes, and vice-versa. With practice you will build the confidence needed to avoid second-guessing yourself when the results are bad but your technique is good.
Because after all, we can just work towards it, whether we get it or not is not in our hands and is not something that we control. But the amount of efforts we put towards it is in our control, so why not give everything our best without worrying about something that is not even in our control.
Get FREE access to our member’s only club and enjoy unlimited travel resources. Be the first to find out about new travel discounts and exclusive discount coupons for leading brands. Did I mention it’s all FREE? Are you in? Great! Sign up below!