Thursday, 24 March 2011

Make the process your goal, not the outcome

Making the process the goal, rather than the outcome, seems like strange advice. Indeed in my last blog post I set myself the goal of running a half marathon in 2.5 hours or less. But what if I get injured before the race? What if I’m ill? Even if I don't run the race it doesn't mean there won't be another, or that my training will be wasted ...

Goals mostly focus on outcomes: winning business, running marathons in a certain time, achieving a certain outcome in a meeting, etc. But these goals rely on a host of external events: customers wanting to implement a solution when you have the staff available, being fit to run, or other people agreeing with your views. To a large degree we have little influence over these external factors.

What we do have control over is the process. The quality of our proposals, the amount of training we do, being open and fair in meetings. Focusing on the process is what really gives us the advantage. Yet when we are focused on the goal we can sometimes forget the importance of each of the tiny steps along the way. Managing time, creating opportunities, being thorough in preparation all add strength to whatever goal we are trying to achieve.

Gretchen Rubin in her wonderful Happiness Project blog has written some wise words about paradoxes. Sometimes to achieve the outcome, we have to focus on the process and forget about the goal.

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