Success is About Enjoying the Ride, Not Achieving the Goal
Last week I painted my kitchen table. It’s been seven years since I painted it last, when our oldest daughter was a baby. Needless to say the table was in desperate need of a new paint job. It had marker stains, hair dye stains (from yours truly), and the shiny gleam of the finish had long ago worn off from all the endless scouring and scrubbing that inevitably happens when you have a white table and small, rather messy children.
So in a spontaneous moment, at least six years in the making, I painted it.
These are the things I thought about as I rolled the crisp, white, shiny paint on my sad neglected table.
The first coat of paint;
I find this stage of painting quite annoying. Frustrating even—like an act of futility. The paint barely covers the marks and mess underneath it. I could still see the dark hair dye and the leftover bits from my kids’ art projects. I wished so badly that I could skip this stage and move right into the second and third coats. That would feel so much more satisfying.
The truth is that I had to do the first coat of paint on that decrepit table to get to the second and third coats. As frustrating as that is, the first step is an absolutely NESSESARY part of the process, and if I shifted my thinking, I could begin to see the beauty in the first coat.
We live in a culture of quick fixes.
We want things done NOW!
We want the fastest wi-fi speeds possible. We want recipes for delicious meals made in fifteen minutes or less. We want to feel all zen-like, without doing the deep inner work. We want to learn how to lay kitchen tiles by watching a ten-minute youtube video. We want the most lucrative return on investment in the shortest time possible. We want to build successful businesses and organizations—serve the most people we are capable of serving, giving the least amount of time we can manage. We buy videos that promise us rock hard abs in just four weeks.
Western culture is so focused on results, results, results. We reach for the stars, create goals and focus on outcomes.
There are so many sayings and mantras out there that remind us of this push to achieve more; “the end is in sight,” “this is all leading somewhere,” “keep your eye on the prize.”
I don’t know about you, but I have realized that life is shorter than I would prefer it to be. I don’t want to waste it trying to get somewhere. I want to enjoy every moment, every stage, every life lesson—even if it’s that awkward first coat of paint stage.
I facilitate five-day train-the-trainer workshops fairly often. Five days is an abundant amount of time to spend with a small group of people doing intense growth work. One of the realizations I have had through this work is the reliance on the process. No matter how the workshop is facilitated, the first day is the most challenging. By the fifth day the group is very connected, minds have been blown, paradigms shifted, and we all leave feeling so inspired. I have always struggled with that first day. It sometimes doesn’t’ feel “right,” you know. People are becoming acquainted to some new thoughts, new styles of learning, new people. I have always noticed this awkwardness, and for a while I continually batted around ideas on how I could facilitate the day differently to make the day feel better for people.
A few months ago after a training, I had a huge aha moment. The awkwardness of day one is necessary to lead into the paradigm shift that happens later on, and the inspiration people feel on the last day. It would be a disservice to people to not let them travel through the process. The awkwardness, and questioning that comes up as a result of the awkwardness, is as valuable as any other stage.
When we choose not to run from discomfort and lean into the process, we will learn and grow.
I’ve been contemplating why we are so goal-focused. We are trained by society, and hard-wired to be dissatisfied, and feel discontentment. Society tells us what success is, and we are constantly being sold “solutions” to make our lives better.
The truth is that the majority of people won’t achieve the kind of success the media tells us we can. Which doesn’t mean we can’t be successful.
We need to change our definition of success.
We naturally compare ourselves to others—people in the media, neighbours, friends on Facebook (who are only showing their good side), we look at our lives and see them as “less-than”, and we have a strong desire for a “better” future. Sometimes this happens without us really realizing that it’s happening.
We find ourselves feeling disconnected from ourselves, from those around us, and from the journey or the process, because we just can’t wait to get to that mythical place where “all is right with the world” and we have achieved success.
I don’t think contentment is possible when we live in a “success paradigm”, but we can be content when we are enjoying the ride.
When we are giving our all to achieve a goal, what happens when we meet the goal? The good feeling slowly dwindles away and we need to move on to the next success “fix” to get that feeling back.
Success occurs when we enjoy the process, savouring it—the thrilling moments, the growth, the satisfying stages, the discomfort, the fear and the failures.
Success is NOT about achieving a goal.
The truth is that the thing we get when we achieve a goal, whether it’s a job, a certificate, a house, or whatever is—a symbol. It shouldn’t be viewed as the be all, end all. It merely represents the transformation that occurred to get there.
The transformation—the moulting and regrowth, is the real prize.
I believe that as a culture we have forgotten the beauty and richness that comes from leaning into the process.
Here are my four tips to enjoying the journey/the process:
1. Lean in—don’t fear discomfort
It seems that the natural reaction to feeling discomfort is to run from it. "Oh crap, this feels wrong, I’m outta here!" When we are in touch with our selves, sometimes walking away may be the right thing to do, but it’s often in our best interest to sit with the discomfort.
I will venture to say that discomfort is always when growth is happening. Think of any example of growth in your life or a new skill you've learned – I bet you felt discomfort. It goes with the territory of "new."
Next time you get that urge to run when you're trying something new, challenge yourself to sit with the feeling, start to accept that discomfort is OK, make friends with it. It won't hurt us, in fact it's quite the opposite - it means that growth is near.
Trust the process. Don’t push it, or rush through this time. Get in touch with how accepting and leaning into the process is feeling within your body. This one can be hard for me sometimes. I totally notice that when I allow things to unfold, I am often surprised, in a good way, by things I never expected to happen.
Trust in the process. Trust yourself. Trust in God, the universe or whatever spiritual power you might believe in.
3. Know how you want to feel
I have spent a lot of time over the last year thinking about how I want to feel. Joy, Freedom, Grace and Abundance are big for me. So the choices I make every day are around helping me to feel those feelings. If something doesn’t sit right, or reflect my core desired feelings, I don’t do it.
I have noticed since I have shifted my thinking to focus on how I want to feel, I have been able to enjoy the process a lot more. I have been savouring each step of my journey. I’m thankful for The Desire Map in helping me to distill my core desired feelings, what I think of as a GPS for my life.
4. Be grateful & celebrate
Gratitude is huge. I find that when I look at my life with the worldview of being thankful for where I’m at, grateful for the people in my life and for what I have, I am really free to enjoy the ride.
I used to find myself almost obsessively wishing and wanting for other things – a bigger place to live, more money, but when I made the shift to gratitude, I started to see beauty where I had missed it before. That's not to say that I don't still think about moving someday. I also have a strong vision for the future, but I'm enjoying getting there, and I realize that things might unfold differently than I might expect, and that is OK. I'm seeing the beauty along the way.
When we are feeling thankful and content, we are also less likely to compare ourselves to others. Comparison is such a total waste of time. There is always someone out there who is further ahead and comparing ourselves to them to them feeds the feeling of discontentment.
Last, but not least—CELEBRATE! Make a big deal out of things! Notice new and old things. Smell the flowers. When something good happens—throw a party! Treat yourself to something fund every day. When we switch to a paradigm of gratitude there is a lot out there in the world that is worthy of celebrating!