Finding pleasure in the effort, not in the results.

I was recently sitting with a client discussing why he wasn’t making progress on his goals – he has many of them and they are fairly clearly defined which might make them more achievable, but each week he comes to see me and has made absolutely zero progress on his goals. For a while, we talked about the importance of breaking his goals into smaller, more manageable pieces. We talked about how they need to be quantifiable, so he will know when his goal is complete (i.e., writing 3 blog posts per week). We discussed the importance of not having too many goals operating at the same time – you really CAN spread yourself too thin. We talked about it. You know what we didn’t talk about? Fear.

Fear about what happens once your goal has been reached and is now outside your control. I know a little about this – I wrote a book last year (Life Lessons for the Teenage Girl: Quotes, Inspiration and Advice for Women by Women, Morgan James, 2013). For the longest time, my goals were to make contact with various famous/successful women, research specific sections or work on writing certain chapters. I could control whether or not I accomplished these goals. Do you know what I couldn’t control? What would happen next. Would anyone actually buy the book? Would they think it sucks? Was I wasting a crap-ton of time and energy?

I realized this is what was going on with my client. He was so focused on whether or not people would like this final outcome, he couldn’t get anything done. We need to change the way we look at things. It isn’t about the results, but, instead, needs to be about the process. You goal is about completing the process to the best of your ability. If no one likes it – OK, that sucks, but it doesn’t change the fact you accomplished your goal.

Here are some examples:

  1. A client told me he was always afraid his girlfriend was going to leave him someday. We talked about the importance of knowing he was doing everything he could to be a great boyfriend. He could not control her feelings, only his actions. We can never make anyone stay with us (at least not legally), but we can know we’ve done everything we could.
  2. My book. Hey, it may suck. I don’t think so, but you might. I cannot control how you might feel about the book. All I could do was my best to make it good. I can’t control the outcome, only my efforts.
  3. I have a number of high school seniors in my life right now (both professionally and personally). College applications are all submitted now and all they can do is wait for the acceptances/rejections. I have had a number of conversations about how they have now done everything they could to submit strong applications (grades, extracurriculars, essays), but it is now out of their control. Satisfaction needs to be found in the process.
  4. I have mentioned a few times that my daughter is a dancer – she dances in competitions with her studio. All the kids can do is go out and do their best (and hopefully enjoy it). The results are completely in the hands of the judges. Whether they like your music or costume or dance style or your face all impacts on how well you fare in the competition. Enjoyment needs to be found in performing, not in winning.

This is a long, perhaps drawn out, way of explaining we need to find our satisfaction in our efforts. Too much in life is out of our hands for us to be able to rely on the outcome for our pleasure. Learning to be proud knowing you have done the best you could will carry you farther than inconsistent trophies, raises, promotions or praise.

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