Whenever we begin a new endeavor related to health, fitness, career, relationships, or personal development, it’s so easy to simply focus on the point of “arrival” and where we believe we need to be. Having a goal in mind is certainly important, but the process along the way is where the magic happens. This is where we grow and learn about ourselves, about others, identify our strengths and areas for improvement, and learn how to pivot when things don’t go according to plan. Which is usually the case. After all, we don’t actually have control over the end result, only our actions and our attitudes.
If we really think about it, the end goal or point of arrival is an arbitrary concept we have in our minds, and we feel as though the work will suddenly cease to exist once we get there. “If I can just get there, then everything in my life will fall into place.” We work hard to lose weight and get the body we’ve always wanted, and then what? We have to continue to put in the work to maintain it. We want the promotion or to start your own business? Once we get it, we have to work just as hard, if not harder, to stay there. We want the dream relationship or family? We have to consistently put in the work to grow together and independently while navigating curveballs in life. We want to cultivate new meaningful friendships? We have to continue to show up and put in the effort once the relationships have been established. If we’re not in love with the process, which is actually where we spend 99.9% of our time in life, then we’re going to be constantly disappointed and focused on the next best thing.
I’ve read and listened to this concept SO many times, but it didn’t really click for me until I found myself wrapped up in starting my own business and needing to reach a certain level of success by X amount of time. And then it dawned on me: what happens when I get there? I still have to show up in the same way I am now, with hard work and dedication. Additionally, what am I supposed to do with all of my time until I reach that point, whenever it may be? Am I going to be ungrateful for my life now until I reach that point, waiting for the days to tick by? Hell no. I’m going to focus on what I can do today and learn as much as I can about my work and myself and enjoy the shit out of the process along the way.
This concept applies so distinctly to goals with our bodies. We get so attached to reaching a certain aesthetic, only to realize that nothing outside of looking different has actually changed. And now we’re tasked with maintaining a body we may have obtained through hatred, loneliness, low self-esteem, or any other negative emotion. If we’re making changes to our bodies via a miserable process, mentally or physically, then not only are we not going to be able to maintain the results, but we’re going to be just as miserable internally, if not more so, once it’s all said and done. A better approach that is more sustainable and enjoyable is as follows:
1. Identify what you want to learn and/or gain throughout the process: These items should not be related to anything outside of our control or based on an outcome (i.e. opinions of others, fitting into a dress size, achieving a PR at the gym, etc.) Rather, these need to be intrinsic motivators or factors we enjoy about the actual process. Examples include learning more about our relationship with food, making ourselves uncomfortable in workouts and pushing last limiting beliefs, demonstrating self-respect by putting our well-being first, or simply committing to a challenge.
2. Detail why the items in Step One are important: becoming clear on the benefits we will experience as a result of the items in Step One is important, otherwise we won’t be able to connect the short-term discomfort we’re bound to experience to the long-term benefits. For example, if I am journaling and practicing awareness with my eating habits because I want to improve and gain a better understanding of my relationship with food, then I will clearly explain via journaling why increasing my awareness of this relationship is important to me. In my case, I wanted to improve my relationship with food because I wanted to free up my time and energy for things I find more important in my life. Essentially, I wanted freedom from the obsession, and that became my north star when I started to experience doubt, laziness, or discomfort during the process.
3. Detach from the Outcome: While striving for a specific outcome can certainly be motivating, the outcome is usually outside of our realm of control. And failing to achieve said outcome can be a source of frustration, self-criticism, and eventually giving up. We can only control our mindset and our efforts through action, so there is great freedom is letting the rest go. By releasing the outcome and simply focusing on the process, we remove any reason for “giving up,” as we can’t actually fail when the process never ends and we continue to put one foot in front of the other.
4. Revisit Steps One and Two Over and Over Again: We need to remind ourselves why the process is important to us. It’s easy to lose sight of what we gain throughout the process, as changes and shifts are usually small and often unnoticeable, in addition to them being downright unenjoyable at times. The process is where the growth happens, and in my experience, growth is uncomfortable 90% of the time (Jessie statistics). So, we need to constantly revisit the details in Steps One and Two.
5. Re-do Steps One and Two When Goals and Priorities Shift: What we want to learn and gain throughout a particular process is inevitably going to shift at some point. This can be due to shift in priorities, changing interests, or simply needing an additional challenge after experiencing sufficient growth. When motivation starts to wane, even after revisiting the details of Steps One and Two, then it might be time to revise those details.
This mindset is relevant to aspects of life, including physical or aesthetic goals, relationships, career, and personal development. Want to develop a better relationship with food and your body image? Or build muscle? Or work on your relationship with a friend or family member? Or get promoted at work? Or improve something about yourself? All of these things take time, and the moment we achieve them is simply that: a brief moment in time. And then we’re on to chasing the next shiny object. We can’t neglect the journey while in pursuit of our dreams, or we’re essentially missing out on life itself. While it’s still very much a work in progress for me, I’ve experienced a huge sense of relief and so much more enjoyment from the moment I decided to start relaxing into the process of life and focus on what I can control: my effort and my attitude.