In a culture focused on results—like winning, surpassing, and achieving—it can be hard for people to learn to focus on the process instead.
Actors, musicians, and writers get the break of a lifetime and dim into obscurity shortly after that.
Athletes achieve home run championships and break down physically, forcing themselves into retirement a few years later.
99 percent of people who lose substantial weight (over 25 pounds) regain it within two years.
A shift in focus can extend these one-hit wonders, or any “failure,” into a constant flow of reward, expanding the fulfillment received from any achievement and giving a heap of self-growth.
What’s a Better Focus?
To focus on the process or your effort is more empowering than a fleeting stab at a win.
After all, we are the only ones who know what effort we give to a project or goal.
That’s where progress is made and lost, and we have to self-manage to achieve an objective.
That’s blood-and-guts self-growth that lasts way past any goal.
Marathon runners were the first to adopt the idea of a personal best rather than focusing on the last race.
This keeps them involved with their own:
- physical condition
A body fighting off an injury might not win the race, but the runner knows and feels how much effort they summoned to get to the finish line.
Many goals require new behaviors, habits, and focus.
To focus on the process means becoming open to feedback.
Focusing on the goal simply points out the fact that the goal might be just as far away or farther, despite many excellent changes in behavior.
Progress is a lonely, bitter road, especially if we wait to achieve the goal before celebrating and acknowledging the strides it takes to travel it.
It also robs us of valuable feedback.
3 Examples of How To Focus on The Process
Example 1: Weight Loss
I struggled with excess weight most of my life.
While focused on a diet, I wanted instant gratification—as diets promise.
When an arbitrary number was my focus, I saw myself not getting what I wanted day after day.
I always gave up.
It seemed I was constantly failing.
Is it any wonder that most diets don’t work?
We might be jazzed up over losing 50 pounds, but after two or three days and a mere pound difference on the scale, it’s time for a hot fudge sundae.
It often feels like the goal is running away faster than we can pursue it.
After struggling with the concept of an ideal weight and diet for 20 years, I finally lost over 90 pounds permanently.
I achieved this change by letting go of the goal and changing my focus.
When executing new behaviors daily, each day can be a huge WIN.
Permanent weight loss will happen in its own time anyway when the body is ready to release weight.
Now that 90+ pounds have been out of my life for over 17 years, I see the power when we focus on the process and our efforts.
Example 2: Career Change
When Jane (not her real name) hired me to help her change careers, she was frustrated and pissed off at her current job, boss, and company.
As she daydreamed about a more fulfilling job, she pictured a better work atmosphere where she felt valued.
She also saw herself as successful and happy in her meaningful new endeavors.
She was not, however, getting very far in her dreams.
Showing up for work in an atmosphere she hated made her goal seem impossible and increased her anxiety.
I can still hear her response when we switched focus to the daily, weekly, and monthly tasks, which would get her moving,
She wasn’t keen on the work it would take to get there.
It didn’t help that she was also lacking confidence.
However, through a series of homework assignments, she gave herself credit for meeting new contacts through networking, sending out resumes, following up on jobs in the field she was targeting, and contacting friends in similar jobs for tips.
Before long, she was humming with confidence and energy.
Hey, she reported to me: she was good at this!
Example 3: Bestselling Author
For creative or artistic folks, focusing on being a bestselling author or Academy Award-winning actor can prevent learning, practicing, and mastering the skills and self-discipline necessary for artistic pursuits.
After all, many creative endeavors require being a self-starter and a self-finisher.
That takes skills like discipline and self-awareness, which can only be learned through personal experience (as well as one or two failures).
Most of those award-winning performances by actors who can’t follow up with another hit are because of a lack of effective work ethic.
Directors and casting agents can spot one-hit wonders, which got lucky, versus dedicated talent in a heartbeat.
Focus on the process, not just your destination.
Self-growth isn’t just a reward of effort—it’s the entire point.
Final thoughts about why you should focus on the process
The proof is in the pudding.
Sister Madonna Buder, an 84-year-old nun who has competed in 40 triathlons, began running at age 48 and competed in her first triathlon at 52.
Several triathlons have had to open to new age categories for her participation, and Nike featured her under the affectionate nickname “The Iron Nun” in one of their commercials.
She credits her age-defying success to long-term vision instead of a single trophy.
“Your effort in itself is success,” she says.