“The only journey is the one within.” — Rainer Maria Rilke
You can control your approach, but you can’t necessarily control the outcome.
People that measure their success only by their results, can end up feeling defeated. Instead, the most successful people actually measure their success by asking themselves whether they did their personal best.
They focus on the process, not on the result.
I think this is a really important concept. There are a lot of variables in life and you can’t always control the results. What you can control is your approach. John Wooden, a famous basketball coach, applied this concept. He coached his team to focus on doing their personal best.
Focus on Continuous Improvement
John Wooden also coached his team to never get overly emotional whether they won or lost. The point was if they didn’t play their personal best, but they won… did they really win? … and, if they did play their personal best, but they lost, … did they really lose? Rather than focus on the scoreboard, he focused on continuous, personal improvement.
In Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy Revised and Updated, David Burns writes about focusing on your approach over focusing on you results.
Key Take Aways
Here are my key take aways:
- You can’t control everything. Accept the fact that you can’t control everything. This doesn’t mean give up. Instead, it means, give your best where you’ve got your best to give and make the most of what you’ve got.
- You can control your approach. Focus on what you can control. You can control your attitude, your actions, and your response.
- Focus on your approach, not your results. Results are feedback to be aware. Use your results to tune your approach, but focus on your approach, and don’t dwell on your results.
- Avoid an emotional roller-coaster. If you focus on results, you’ll ride an emotional roller-coaster. Focusing on your approach, helps you avoid an emotional roller-coaster. It’s more predictable and you’re in control.
- Roll with the punches. There’s a saying that the willow survives because it bends in the wind, while the Oak tree breaks, standing firm and strong.
It’s the Journey and the Destination
Evaluate your own performance on both the journey and the destination. Burns writes:
“A second mind-set that contributes to the fear of defeat is when you evaluate your performance exclusively on the outcome regardless of your individual effort. This is illogical and reflects a ‘product orientation’ rather than a ‘process orientation.’ … Let me explain this with a personal example. As a psychotherapist I can control only what I say and how I interact with each patient. I cannot control how any particular patient will respond to my efforts during a given therapy session.”
What You Say and How You Interact is the Process
According to Burns, what you say and how you interact is the process:
“What I say and how I interact is the process; how each individual reacts is the product. In any given day, several patients will report that they have benefited greatly from that day’s session, while a couple others will tell me that their session was not particularly helpful.”
Don’t Ride an Emotional Roller-Coaster
Don’t ride an emotional roller-coaster. Focus on your approach, not the results. Burns writes:
“If I evaluate my work exclusively on the outcome or product, I would experience a sense of exhilaration whenever a patient did well, and feel defeated and defective whenever a patient reacted negatively. This would make my emotional life a roller-coaster, and my self-esteem would go up and down in an exhausting and unpredictable manner all day long. But if I admit to myself that all I can control is the input I provide in the therapeutic process, I can pride myself on good consistent work regardless of the outcome of any particular session.”
Evaluate Your Work Based on the Process
When you figure out to focus on the process versus the results, it’s a great personal victory: Burns writes:
“It was a great personal victory when I learned to evaluate my work based on the process rather than the product. If a patient gives me a negative report, I try to learn from it. If I did make an error, I attempt to correct it, but I don’t need to jump out the window.”
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Photo by Alaskan Dude.