Trust the process.
Yea, I know. This catchphrase is fast becoming a cliché. But wait, why is this term so significant and what bearing does it have on our lives?
To trust the process means being devoted to your goals even when you are struggling with no progress in sight.
This is by no means easy. Humans are hardwired to expect results right away. It’s called instant gratification.
Instant gratification is the need to enjoy or find fulfillment without waiting or postponing it. In essence, it’s the urge to see immediate results and to see them right away.
When you trust the process, you are putting that instant gratification mode on hold.
Trusting the process means you are putting faith in your effort and hard work. It means that you switch your attention from the “outcome” to the “process.”
Think of the outcome as the “destination” and the process as the “journey.” Focusing on the journey rather than the destination helps you reduce the unpleasant emotions involved in trying to get there.
Instead of trying to “arrive” at a destination, enjoy the journey. Enjoy the process – the work, the play, and the discovery.
James Clear, the author of Atomic Habit, compared the process to a treasure hunt:
“The problem with a treasure hunt is that most people spend all of their time thinking about the treasure. The fastest way to get to a particular spot, however, is to set your compass and start walking.
The idea here is to commit to your goal with the utmost conviction. Develop a clear, single-minded focus on where you are headed. Then, however, you do something strange. You release the desire to achieve a particular outcome and focus instead on the slow march forward.
Pour all of your energy into the journey, be present in the moment, be committed to the path you are walking. Know that you are moving unwaveringly in one clear direction and that this direction is right for you, but never get wrapped up in a particular result or achieving a certain goal by a specific time.
In other words, your goal becomes your compass, not your buried treasure. The goal is your direction, not your destination.”
Hence, the process is the compass (or map) that steers you in the right direction. Even when things don’t seem to work as planned, just trust the process.
To trust the process, you must alter your perspective and take a different approach towards your objectives in life. Here are 5 ways you can put your trust in the process and let life play out as it should:
One feature of “trust the process” is a concept in Stoic philosophy known as the Dichotomy of Control. This refers to the simple dichotomy between what you can control and what you can’t.
Trusting the process means that you focus your efforts on what you can control. Whatever you cannot control, you just ignore and disregard it.
As the Stoic philosopher Epictetus said:
“There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power or our will.”
It is important to understand where your energy should be directed. You do not spend time and energy on things that you cannot change or control. Accept it as it is and focus your time and energy on areas that you are able to control.
Remember, you are either in control of something or you are not. Your emotions, behavior, and reaction to circumstances are all under your control. You have no influence over how other people act or perceive you.
Two millennia ago, the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, a prominent Stoic, wrote about the Dichotomy of Control:
“There are things that are within our power and things that fall outside our power. Within our power are our own opinions, aims, desires, [and] dislikes; in sum, our own thoughts and actions.
Outside our power are our physical characteristics, the class into which we were born, our reputation in the eyes of others, and honors and offices that may be bestowed on us.
Working within our sphere of control, we are naturally free, independent, and strong. Beyond that sphere, we are weak, limited, and dependent.”
Learn to stay focused on what’s within your control. You are in control of how you use your time, who you spend it with, and what you do with it.
If you spend your life preoccupied with the end result, you will lose the essence of being alive. You will forget how important it is to live a purpose-driven life.
While diligently chasing your goals or pursuing your dreams, remember to pay attention to the present moment. Keep in mind all the blessings in your life and enjoy them to the fullest right now.
Relentlessly chasing goals without enjoying every moment of the chase is like living for tomorrow. You are just pursuing the feeling of “I will be happy once I achieve ______ .” (Fill in the blank with whatever you are striving towards).
I like how Benjamin Hoff describes this feeling in The Tao of Pooh:
“The Christmas presents once opened are Not So Much Fun as they were while we were in the process of examining, lifting, shaking, thinking about, and opening them. Three hundred sixty-five days later, we try again and find that the same thing has happened.
Each time the goal is reached, it becomes Not So Much Fun, and we’re off to reach the next one, then the next one, then the next.
That doesn’t mean that the goals we have don’t count. They do, mostly because they cause us to go through the process, and it’s the process that makes us wise, happy, or whatever. If we do things in the wrong sort of way, it makes us miserable, angry, confused, and things like that.
The goal has to be right for us and it has to be beneficial in order to ensure a beneficial process. But aside from that, it’s really the process that’s important.”
Trust the process. The time you spend pursuing your objectives should be enjoyed to the fullest.
For most people, when they finally achieve their goals, they already have their eyes on the next target. So, they don’t really enjoy the feeling of triumph, and off they go on to the next goal. And then the next one, and the next one…
It’s the thrill of the chase that matters most. It is along the journey to your goals that you have moments where you pick up lessons about life.
Thus, when you trust the process, you are not only savoring every moment of the chase. You will also pause to celebrate the small wins.
Celebrating small wins does not have to be extravagant. It could be as simple as taking a day off, buying a small gift, or having a small celebratory party.
According to Harvard Business School’s Teresa Amabile, the celebration of smaller goals encourages the completion of bigger ones.
Your big goals are not going to materialize overnight. By celebrating small victories, you are telling yourself you are making progress towards the ultimate goal. It also means that you trust the process.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, an actor and former governor of California, is no stranger to achieving goals. When asked about getting in shape, his advice was:
“Look for small victories and build on that. Each small victory, even if it is just getting up five minutes earlier, gives you confidence.
You realize that these little victories make you feel great, and you keep going. You realize that being paralyzed by fear of failure is worse than failure.”
Always punctuate your small victories with jubilation before proceeding onto the next milestone. Your brain is wired to respond to rewards.
Making failure your ally might sound counterintuitive because it can be a demoralizing and upsetting experience. But the truth is:
Failure is a part of life and it helps you learn and grow.
History is filled with people who have experienced failure at some point in their lives before achieving greatness. Eloise Ristad, the author of A Soprano on Her Head claimed that:
“When we give ourselves permission to fail, we at the same time give ourselves permission to excel.”
Since failure is inevitable, accept it and use it to your advantage. Embrace failure and make it your ally, because you can often learn your best lessons from it.
According to Timothy J. Bono, an assistant dean in psychology at Washington University:
“The happiest people are often those who have learned how to fail.”
He asserts that those who focus on process rather than outcome are better at handling failure. He claims that these people have a tendency to maintain their motivation when the going gets tough.
Take a page out of the Stoics’ playbook by practicing the art of responding to failure. Stoics spend time thinking about what could go wrong and preparing for worst-case scenarios.
By doing this, they will not be caught off guard by unpleasant surprises. Seneca, one of the three most prominent figures in Stoicism, wrote:
“It is in times of security that the spirit should be preparing itself to deal with difficult times.”
When you approach any circumstance with a clear mind, you effectively avert or prepare for a potential failure. Stoics anticipate every possibility and are ready for all of them, thus rendering failure as nothing more than a consequence.
This is a critical element of trusting the process:
Embrace failure, learn from it, and make the necessary course corrections towards your goals.
What would you do if your hectic way of life became intolerable? For Jesse Itzler, the owner of the professional basketball team Atlanta Hawks, it was seeking solace in a monastery.
He recounts his experience and the valuable lessons he learned from the monks in his book, Living With the Monks. Among the many anecdotes in his book, one story stands out.
At the monastery, Itzler was given chores, and on a particular day, he was assigned to wash dishes. The dishes appeared to be accumulating while he was cleaning them because a monk kept adding more dirty dishes.
He asked a monk how many more he’d have to do because he knew this could take hours. “You only have to do one,” the monk said.
“Just the one you’re holding in your hand.”
That was an enlightening moment for Itzler. What seemed like a laborious and nearly impossible undertaking had become a simple task!
The monks focused entirely on one thing at a time. While Itzler was concerned with quantity, the monks lived in a world of quality. They were extremely effective in everything they did because of this.
This is the beauty of trusting the process. Do not be distracted by the outcome. Instead, pay attention to the process and, eventually, you will get the outcome that you want.
This is consistent with the words of Ryan Holiday, a contemporary Stoic and the author of Ego Is The Enemy:
“The process is about doing the right things, right now. Not worrying about what might happen later, or the results, or the whole picture.”
When you trust the process, it means that you are willing to forgo expectations and control. It means that you will enjoy the process and just do what is required for you to achieve your results.
Trust is the understanding that you have nothing to worry about. No matter how difficult anything may seem right now, just trust the process and everything will work out in the end.
In conclusion, I will leave you to ponder upon the words of Julia Cameron, the author of The Artist’s Way:
“As you move toward a dream, the dream moves toward you.”
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