Everyone loves seeing the results of their hard work. We love being recognized for all the time and effort we spent working towards a goal. We enjoy the pat on the back, the applause of approval.
But we must be careful: results can be addicting, even toxic. Once we experience the sweet taste of recognition after working relentlessly on a project or a pursuit, we immediately want more. We crave more recognition, more attention, more endearing applause. We seek to experience that same thrill over and over again.
This intense desire for more results is dangerous. It can cause us to rush through the process, fail to seek feedback, fail to produce our best work.
Even worse, it makes us forget that results are merely a reflection of the process. But even then they can be a poor reflection, sometimes rewarding us before we deserve it, sometimes failing to recognize our work until long after it should be recognized.
Results can be fleeting, unreliable, even unpredictable. Judging our progress based entirely off them is a poor strategy. It distracts us from what actually matters: the process.
The process is always present, always dependable. It is always patiently waiting to be used, waiting to mold us into the person we wish to become.
You know what I’m talking about. The process is waking up at 5 AM and writing for hours each morning, even when you don’t feel like it. The process is swimming laps in the pool long after the rest of the team has gone home. The process is spending late nights at Starbucks working on your craft, your muse, your masterpiece.
The process isn’t always pretty, it’s not always easy, but it is reliable. The process is guaranteed to push you closer to your most grandiose goals and dreams.
The Great Tug of War
When I sit down to write each morning I don’t have a devil or an angel on either of my shoulders. Instead I have Results and The Process.
Results sits on one shoulder, quietly telling me to write faster, churn out more articles, create clever titles, whatever it takes to gain as much attention as quickly as possible, even at the expense of the quality of writing.
Meanwhile, The Process sits atop my other shoulder telling me to slow down, revise my sentence structure, do a little more research, push myself to use new vocabulary, focus solely on the quality of the content.
The Results want recognition for their work, whether the work is worthy of attention or not. The Process, on the other hand, doesn’t care about attention. It only seeks improved quality, increased growth, development of skills.
The Process doesn’t care about retweets, likes, favorites, shares, page views, or up-votes. It is only concerned with the quality of work, not the exposure of the work.
Results tell us to be an egomaniac. The Process tells us to be a humble worker.
Slowly But Surely
The process loves iterative, slow, incremental progress. The results, on the other hand, yearn for the overnight success, the immediate achievement from minimal effort.
The process loves habits, discipline, and purpose. It doesn’t care about emotions, feelings, motivation, or any other fleeting reason to put in work. It is long-term focused. By contrast, results seek short-term attention, immediate recognition, maximum exposure. Results want to be seen and heard. They want to be on full display for all to see.
Our obsession with results is the reason why so many projects fail before they even make it out of the starting gate. It’s why most entrepreneurial endeavors end in less than a year. It’s why most blogs don’t last more than two years. It’s why our society is constantly jumping around from one project to the next, one pursuit to the next, one partner to the next, all in an effort to find the immediate results we believe exist. But they are nowhere to be found.
Addiction to results is what makes us blow money on stuff we can’t afford. We finance cars, houses, toys that are far outside of our price range all in an effort to flaunt our success, to prove that we have obtained our goals. We take on debt to buy stuff we don’t even want to impress people we don’t even care about.
Look at what I bought. Look at what I accomplished. Look at my results.
The Joy of the Process
The most ironic part of all is that we don’t find nearly as much fulfillment, meaning, and happiness in the results as we do in the process.
When we are deeply entrenched in the process, facing our struggles head on we become molded and crafted into a better, more knowledgeable, skillful, resilient person. We experience growth.
The process is something we can find constant joy in. Slow, iterative, authentic progress and growth brings a sense of accomplishment. In fact, constant growth is one of the greatest forms of satisfaction a human can experience. But results are not part of this growth process, they’re simply a reflection of it.
So focus only on the process. The results may come. Or they may not. We can’t always control the results, but we can control the process. We control the habits and disciplines we place in our lives on a daily basis. We control the amount of earnest, focused effort we put forth in our meaningful work each day.
I’ll leave you with this: Love the process, forget the results.
Feature photo credit: lion
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