Process is greater than outcome

I was talking to a friend last night about the idea of not being “success oriented”. I said, “I’m not driven by success…” but before I could explain further she was objecting to the premise. “Of course you are! Look at your haircut, look at the way you use social media…”, she began. Both good points. The idea of “not being success-oriented” deserves some unpacking.

“Success” as a result

When I say I’m “not success-oriented” or “driven by success” as an outcome (or result), I’m using the primary dictionary definition of the word success: “accomplishment of an aim or purpose”. 

We often use the word success in the context of describing someone, as being successful. In that usage what we’re alluding to is the attainment of not just any outcome, but a specific outcome, usually some mixture of popularity, notoriety, or profit. Those can be positive outcomes depending on the context. In that sense,  I am “success-oriented”, meaning I have some goals I’m working towards which is what my friend was illuminating last night. I want to achieve my goals, absolutely. 

Putting the means before the ends

So what is not being oriented towards success as an outcome? When we shift our focus from the completion of a goal, the “accomplishment of our aim or purpose”, we are actively changing our focus towards the process. We shift focus from successful completion, to the path we are on.

We become process-oriented, not outcome-oriented.

Being process-oriented means that every action we take now becomes the point, the central focus, the purpose. It is the current choice and expression of that choice that is of primary importance. So whole our goals might not change, we may still be seeking and working towards the same “success”, but we have put the achievement of that success in a more appropriate place. We have made our goals subservient to our  creative process of daily life. 

This is putting practice first, results second. This encourages us to seek goals that align with a sustainable practice of life, a process to enact through our choices that holds intrinsic value. Intrinsic value in action means deriving value from doing the action itself.

In terms of health goals this means taking the focus off of losing weight or looking good (outcome) and putting it on to the practice and intrinsic value of eating well and being active (process). In the context of business this could be shifting focus from hitting a major monetary or sales target (outcome) to focusing on creating and delivering something of real value (process).

Process orientation

When we define process (or practice) as our orientation we free ourselves from the achievement of goals as the primary measurement of success. We turn our focus to the practice of the every day. In this way success is achieved continuously with every action that aligns with our goals and values. This is the process of constructing integrity, of ensuring the wheels of your life turn smoothly, that you are on the way optimal path for achieving your vision. 

When we are process oriented we are free to revise goals. We avoid suffering twice when goals aren’t met because we have been driven by our practice, not by the achievement. Losses can be devasting, defeat can be emotionally draining, but when our lives are built with integrity and driven by daily choices of intrinsic value, we leave less room for second-guesses and regrets, of wishing things were some way other than the way they are. We stay in the moment, revise the goal, and keep choosing a path of intrinsic value. We work because we are aligned with the process of our employment, we eat well and move well because we are aligned with our needs as biological beings with the need to move and absorb nutrients to function properly.

Process > Outcome

I am not success oriented. I am process oriented. It doesn’t matter if I win the race; it matters that I push myself with integrity today with the purpose of winning the race. It doesn’t matter if I reach the summit; it matters that I climb with integrity for the purpose of attaining the summit. It doesn’t matter of my company is successful; it matters that we pursue real value at every step. It matters that we stand in a place of acceptance and love, taking responsibility for what we create with our choices.

Practice makes practice.

Ironically, when we shift our focus from achievement to practice, we increase the likelihood of successful outcomes.  Practice as an orientation is the surest way to achieve goals because our goals become the practice itself. With process as the primary focus, once a specific goal is achieved we simply set a new goal that acts as a landmark to orient ourselves as we move forward with our daily decisions.

What are you doing today that is out of integrity with the creation of intrinsic value in value in your life? What are you doing about it?

What are you doing today that is aligned with a commitment to process? To practice?

Love yourself, love those around you. You light the way.

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