Process Versus Results

We are always trying to achieve something. Whether it’s a work goal, getting the promotion we’ve been hoping for or improving our fitness – there’s always something for which to strive.

My question to you is: how much focus should we put on reaching that goal versus the process [1] by which we achieve it?

Image by Christos Georghiou via Shutterstock

Let’s start with results. There are a number of benefits to focusing your attention primarily on your goal. It gives you a better chance of achieving what you want, without deviation or compromise. If that is where all your attention is focused perhaps it means you will progress along the most direct trajectory to your desired result. It could also be argued that if you don’t stay focused on the outcome, you may not achieve it. You might even settle for an alternative that’s not quite as good for you.

Consider consequentialist philosophy for a moment, which claims that the end justifies the means. If the outcome you are striving for is considered to be ‘good’ or important, then the way in which you get the outcome is acceptable. Process is almost irrelevant; anything goes. However, I can’t imagine that this philosophy in every scenario would stand you in good stead with your relationships.

Focusing always on the results could lead you into an incessant rat race. There’s always something bigger, something better for you to obtain. If you long to earn $100,000, you will probably find the boundaries change as soon as you get close. You start thinking that $100,000 isn’t a lot of money after all and that real success will only come when you earn $200,000. At best, you enjoy your success for a short amount of time. But very soon, you start to focus on the next thing and the next thing. You forget to stop and truly enjoy how far you’ve come and appreciate what you’ve achieved.

Instead of only focusing on the result, what if we were to also focus on the process; on how you do things? I’m learning more about this approach and am realising that if you decide to take actions that are in alignment with your values, no matter what, then it may not necessarily get you to your original goal. But I would argue that you will inevitably be happy wherever you end up because everything you did to get there was in alignment with what you believe.

I’m not saying that results aren’t important but if you can increase the amount of focus you have on how you do things, as well as your desired results, it can only be a good thing. Focusing on how you do things and trying to do them in the best way, makes you learn and grow. And if you focus on doing things that you think are right or good according to your values, you will enjoy the journey. Both of which I believe are essential for personal fulfilment.

My many years in sales roles encouraged me to focus on results. I felt as though all my activities should lead to commitment to do business, increased revenue or at the very least, some form of marketing or brand improvement. I believed that if I didn’t stay focused on my results, quarter by quarter, I wouldn’t survive in sales very long. Recently I’ve been embracing the philosophy of doing the right thing more and more. I’m doing the things that I enjoy and that I’m good at. I’m enjoying the meetings and conversations I’m having, and the progress I’m making. I’m enjoying learning about the people I’m talking to and discovering what they are passionate about. I still bring my attention to my goals regularly. But even if my activities don’t lead to increased revenue in the short term, I feel certain they will lead to better relationships with people, which is a more rewarding result than money.

Maybe one day, I’ll apply this principle to my personal life and enjoy exercising for the sake of it…. maybe!

[1] It’s worth being clear on the definition of my terms. When I use the word ‘process’ here I mean the principles you’d use to get something done (how you do something), as opposed to referring to a procedure (what you do).

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