My whole life I have been trained to set a goal, aim for it, and make it happen. In school. In sports. In business.
Lots of us have. That’s how we roll as a society and a culture. As a world.
If you’re going to race an Ironman, for instance, you pick a race first. You establish race day as the one date that you must be at your peak in terms of fitness and mental preparedness. And then you back away from that date, filling all the days up to that point with the training necessary to meet that goal. And you do it even though it’s hard. Because you’re invested in the outcome. And you want to be your best.
It’s similar for lots of things in life. Taking a test. Giving a presentation. Launching a business. Getting married. Building a table. You set a goal, you make a plan, and you make it happen.
In the past several years, I’ve stopped racing altogether. It just hasn’t appealed to me. For me, training became un-fun. I just wanted to run for the pure joy of running. I set aside my heart rate monitor and even my watch. Now, it’s just me, my dog, a good audio book, and miles and miles of trail. And it’s perfect. In this shift, I simply let go of outcome.
There are outcomes, sure. Like fitness and saneness. But they are not my reason for running. Running is my reason for running.
That was a good start. I see now that that was a very zen-like decision, though I didn’t make it to be zen-like. It just felt better.
So now I am looking at the rest of my life and thinking that I could really learn from my own example.
When we want something or want to know something or want to get somewhere, we become so invested in the end goal that sometimes the process becomes tedious or frustrating. Lots of us Type As think so at least. We have to get there and the goal is to get there and so the process of getting there becomes a big hassle.
But what if The Process of getting there is the whole point?
The Process is important.
Oh, that darn Process. Sometimes it’s challenging. Sometimes it’s tedious. Sometimes it’s repetitive, lonely, or painful. But sometimes it’s joyful. It can surprise you. Maybe, it reveals a wholly different way of doing things or a wholly unexpected person to do them with.
But, The Process, it is beautiful. It is always beautiful.
Right now, in my life, I’m trying to enjoy The Process. I’m slowing down. I’m looking around me and being grateful for what I have and what I see. For who I meet. I’m consciously stepping, not just focusing on where I’m going and missing everything along the way. I don’t try to force the issue or force the outcome. I’m more open to whatever the issue and the outcome might be. And sometimes the issue and the outcome are different from what I wanted, or, I should say, what I thought I wanted. And I’m finding myself, more often, pleasantly surprised.
What I’m also learning, though, is that by focusing on The Process, it is much easier to let go of The Outcome. The Process gains a significance that before it didn’t deserve. It alone becomes a reason for doing.
Like running for the joy of running.
We are told, so often, that to be mindful, to just be, we should let go of The Outcome. And I agree. But do they tell us how?
Not really. They say, “Just let go.”
Well, what if just letting go is a process?
I think it may be.
In the weeks to come, try to enjoy The Process. It is for you to decide whether this process is toward an end goal or just the living of life. It is your path. But be there in the doing of it. Be there each step of the way. Love the now of it all, and the doing of whatever it is that you are doing.
And in The Process, mindfully assess what happens to the significance of The Outcome.
It might just be a bit easier to let it go.