The Process

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;

Here is my freshly painted table filled with Truthbombs. It looks so CLEAN!

Here is my freshly painted table filled with Truthbombs. It looks so CLEAN!

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.

2.    Trust

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!


 

 

 

 

My Adventures with Appreciative Inquiry (in Las Vegas)

I first heard about Appreciative Inquiry years ago, on a Google rabbit trail.

You know what I’m talking about.

I'm talking about the rabbit trail that sometimes leads us to discover information about botched celebrity plastic surgeries, or some random tidbit of 'knowledge' about the lifecycle of a weevil or bed bug.

Vegas - the city where it's not unusual to see stormtroopers, Olaf, or Chewbacca hanging out on a sidewalk. Of course the intent is that you pay to have your picture taken with them...I snapped this shot on the down low.

Vegas - the city where it's not unusual to see stormtroopers, Olaf, or Chewbacca hanging out on a sidewalk. Of course the intent is that you pay to have your picture taken with them...I snapped this shot on the down low.

Well, the Google rabbit trail I wandered down all those years ago was a gooder. It didn’t lead me to a bunch of useless, negligibly interesting information that tends to clog up my already trivia-filled brain. It led me to learn about a concept that has had huge positive, life-changing, paradigm-shifting implications in my life. It led me to taking a recent trip to Las Vegas, more on that in a bit. 

First off, I think that some people might find the term “Appreciative Inquiry” a bit dry and technical. If that’s where your brain went, I assure you, it’s not a dry or technical concept.

I like to equate the word “appreciate” to value, prize or revere. Those words feel rich to me. "Inquiry" is about discovering, envisioning and dreaming with innovation about what can be—right now.

 

The truth is the western culture focuses so much on deficits. What’s wrong? How can we fix this problem? What’s stopping this from being the best it can be? Why aren’t I/you living to my/your full potential?

I could go on and on here, but I’m sure you’ve heard similar queries. Basically I’m saying that the whole idea of problem-solving is flawed. This mindset, or paradigm, is based on seeing the glass half empty. The truth is that when we approach things from a problem-solving paradigm, we keep ourselves tied to the problem.

Freedom is big for me.

There is no freedom when we are tied to a problem. 

I find it really interesting that I can receive such positive encouragement and feedback from people, but if I hear one or two negative things, my mind ruminates on it for hours, or days—sometimes longer, especially if I feel that the comment is based on conjecture. If I’m not intentional about letting it go, I can let myself become plagued by the negative thoughts, for a really long time. I can feel the negativity in my body, the hairs on the back of my neck get prickly, or I get a knot or pain in my gut. I know I’m not alone here, I imagine a lot of you can relate.

The fact is that there is science behind this phenomenon. The reason why it’s very difficult to let that kind of negativity go, has to do with the brain’s limbic system—the primitive brain. But more on that in a future blog post.

So basically Appreciative Inquiry (AI) flips this whole negative paradigm on its head. It’s brilliantly simple, yet it can be quite complex to learn to see things differently and to integrate strength-based thinking into our "glass half full" brains. We all have a way of seeing the world the through the lens of our thoughts, experiences and feelings, shaping our reality in the process. If we see things through a positive lens, we will be creating happiness and wholeness for ourselves.

AI is about exploring, discovering and building on strengths. It’s about seeing the positivity, the beauty, and the profound in our lives, workplaces and communities.

Let’s first notice these things, explore them, and build on them, so that we can create a new paradigm for living happy, satisfying lives in the present.

In the philosophy of Appreciative Inquiry there is a strong focus on the present. So it's different than goal planning or writing a mission or vision statement.  The philosophy draws on strengths so that we can live fully now, not six months, or a year from today—right NOW.

We, as individuals, organizations, and businesses can focus so much on goals and reaching goals-outcomes measurement. But what happens when we achieve those goals? We simply check the goal off the list and then make new ones. As Shawn Achor says, "if happiness is on the opposite side of success, then we will never get there."

The truth is if we are always living for the future we are never fully, mindfully living in the present. 

Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "For the simplicity that lies this side of complexity, I would not give a fig, but for the simplicity that lies on the other side of complexity, I would give my life."

 

My interpretation of this, in relation to positivity, is that “Simplicity that lies on the other side of complexity" happens when we focus on strengths, and build on them. It's very simple, yet we as human beings really like to overcomplicate things by unconsciously adding layers of barriers that prevent us from seeing from a strength perspective.

 

So back to my Google rabbit trail…

I discovered Appreciative Inquiry years ago. I wasn’t brand new to the idea of building on strengths, because my work in mental health was really grounded in the recovery movement, which is also very strength-based. However, the idea of taking these ideas to the workplace and our communities was revelatory for me. I was a manager at that point, so I tried integrating some of the ideas into my work, but I always knew I wanted more.

These are some of the goodies we had to play with at the training. How fun to have a table full of stickers, toys, pipe cleaners, paper, glue and markers to play with. We adults need more play in our lives, I think.

These are some of the goodies we had to play with at the training. How fun to have a table full of stickers, toys, pipe cleaners, paper, glue and markers to play with. We adults need more play in our lives, I think.

I discovered an AI Facilitator Training held by The Center for Appreciative Inquiry, in Las Vegas. When I wrote my business plan back in December, I already knew that I wanted Appreciative Inquiry to have a large role in my business, both in the overall philosophy and in the service Luminate Wellness provides.

I hummed and hawed about when to take the training. Before I started this business venture, I really had no idea how complex and expensive starting a business was. Still, I knew taking this training was a priority for me. It took me almost two years to make the really spontaneous decision to sign up, and book a ticket to Las Vegas. 

I hopped on a plane last week, and it was an amazing experience. (It was my first time in “sin city”, and really, I could write a whole blog post just on the oddity and grandiosity of that place. It was interesting to say the least.)

The facilitator training was a fantastic experience, with amazing people—people who became my friends by the end of the short, intense, and really fun week. On Monday morning we were a group of strangers with all different backgrounds, and by the end of the training on Thursday afternoon we were engaged, connected and expressing gratitude for each other. Strength-based thinking is profound, really. It can change life trajectories. Actually, it's more like WE change our own trajectories when we choose to look at the world through a lens of possibility. 

I'm very excited about where this journey is going to take me, and really about the process, because I want to be engaged and enjoy every twist and turn.

Last week was such a gift! It was certainly an investment—a investment worth every penny.

 


I wanted to share this TedTalk video we watched at the training. It’s by Shawn Achor and it’s called “The Happy Secret to Better Work.” It's not a long video, but it's profound. 

At the end of the video (spoiler alert) he shares some research on how people have trained their brains to be more positive by doing the following practices on a regular basis; 

  • Practice daily gratitude. Express thankfulness for 3 things a day.

  • Journal one positive thing a day.

  • Exercise

  • Meditation - allowing our brains to focus without multitasking.

  • Practice random/conscious acts of kindness. 

I'm making an effort to do these practices with my family regularly. Last night we were thankful for face painting done by a neighbour kid (which my daughter paid $2.00 for), good food, and an engaging meeting.

I'll keep you posted on how it goes.

Enjoy the video!