Not too long ago, I was speaking with friends about my decision to live fully during what I now call, “the process.” While not a new concept or idea, I define the process as the period between when you start actively working on a long-term goal and the moment you attain the envisioned outcome.
If your aim is to pursue graduate studies, the process for you will begin the moment you start actively working on this goal until the moment you actually get into a graduate program. As you can see, a series of things have to happen to get you from point A to point B. You will need letters of recommendation, transcripts, writing samples, statements of purpose, etc. The list goes on.
Even when you submit your applications, you will have to wait. When the acceptance letters roll in, if the decision was favorable, you will have to wait for school to start. Moreover, if you are not lucky to get in the first time around, you will have to wait again for the application cycle to begin. How are you choosing to live during these waiting periods?
When I stopped thinking, once I reach my goal, I will be happy. I realized that I could still fully engage with life while striving to achieve any long-term aim. I realized that I had to continue being my best self during these waiting periods. In essence, aspects of our lives do not have to be put on hold until we achieve a goal.
- Yes, if you want to save for graduate school applications, you might consider reducing the number of Uber rides you take on weekends.
- Yes, if you need to take the GRE and you know you need to purchase test-prep materials, you should consider cutting down on weekly brunches.
Here’s the short version
Once you have actively started working on a long-term goal, engage in the process as if the waiting period—between your goal and envisioned outcome—is where you are meant to be…for now.
Actively engaging in the process
We decide how we want to interact with the process. We can choose to sit back and allow time to pass by, or we can live fully and continue to engage in our favorite activities. Attending a dinner-date with friends will not cause you to fail the GRE and neither will rewarding yourself with an episode of your favorite TV show or YouTube Channel.
For some goals, you may have to jump in and figure things out as you go; to the extent that for you, achieving the specific goal outweighs the costs of not achieving it. Still, for other goals, you may have to make necessary calculations of your long and short term circumstances before you leap. The process, nonetheless, is a critical period and it is a constant reality. Even if you end up not achieving the outcome that you hoped for, engaging fully in the process might lead you to develop skills that may be helpful if you choose to try again.
You are right though. Nothing beats the sense of accomplishment that comes from an achievement. Like the moment your website goes live or when you submit your last doctoral application! Still, If you can find joy and meaning in the process, somehow you are also able to detach yourself from the outcome. Why not make your process exciting?
Over the years, I have learned to trust that the rewards will come, even if they come late. In doing this, I can let go of the outcome and I am better able to focus solely on the little steps I need to take to accomplish a goal. One win often leads to another and even when a set back arises, I can efficiently strategize about how to overcome it because I am not burdened by the outcome.
While the popular quote, the journey is the reward, rings true for me, all I am saying is this: I am no longer eager to get through the process to achieve results. It might be difficult to believe, but trust me if you can, the process is as important, if not more important than the outcome. The honest truth is that the outcome will always be what the outcome will be.
I am committed to remaining open to the lessons I’ll learn on the path to achieving my goals.
My friends and I mused about enjoying the moments that make up the process and we agreed that we should not take our time for granted.
In a recent post, I wrote about actively working towards my PhD and starting this blog. Choosing to engage actively in the process while working on these two goals have already taught me a lot about myself. These realizations have inspired me to always celebrate the process.
Also published on Medium.