iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Margaret Paul, Ph.D.

GET UPDATES FROM Margaret Paul, Ph.D.

How to Focus on the Process Instead of the Outcome

Posted: 09/21/11 10:00 AM ET

Are you stuck, unable to move forward with something you say you want to do? Do you hold back giving your all to whatever you are doing?

"If people knew how hard I worked to gain my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful."
--Michelangelo 


"The quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor."
--Vince Lombardi

"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education is not; the world is full of educated failures. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."
--Calvin Coolidge

Does doing your very best bring you joy? Do you generally put forth your best effort, or is there something in the way of striving for excellence?

When we watch most small children learning to walk, they are very diligent about it. The fact that they fall over and over doesn't seem to faze them at all. But what would happen if, every time the child fell, the parent became angry and yelled at them for falling down, shaming them for failing? It is likely that the child would become fearful of trying to walk, and their walking would be greatly delayed.

I've never seen a parent do this to a child, but I have seen many people do it to themselves.

Think about what you say to yourself when you think about doing something new -- like going back to school to change careers, learning to fly, moving to a new city or contemplating marriage.

Is this you?

  • What if I fail?

  • What if I make a fool of myself?

  • What will people think of me if I don't do well?

Or is this you?

  • How exciting -- a new challenge!

  • I'm going to enjoy putting my all into this!

  • I just love trying new things and learning new things!

There is one huge difference between these two: The first is about the outcome and the second is about the process.

When you are focused on the outcome and you attach your worth to the outcome, you will find yourself very resistant to trying new things and putting forth your best effort. When you define your worth by your performance rather than your effort, you stop yourself dead at the starting gate.

When your sense of worth is attached to the effort you make and putting forth your very best, then the process itself becomes exciting and rewarding, regardless of the outcome. In fact, people who define themselves through effort rather than outcomes do not think much about the outcome. While they have goals, and they certainly want to achieve their goals, they are not focused in the future on the goal. Instead, they are in the present moment, putting forth full effort in their desire to be all they can be.

If you find yourself stuck or blocked in your life in any area, look inside to see if your focus is on the outcome and on what people think of you, or if you are focused in the present moment, fully engaged in the process. Notice if you are telling yourself that your worth and intelligence are attached to outcomes and to what people think of you, or to fully expressing and manifesting your gifts and talents.

If you have never put forth full effort for fear of failure, you have no idea how deeply fulfilling it is to give your all to something. People who fear failure are afraid to give their all, because then if they fail, they can always say, "Well, I didn't put in my all." People who give their all and fail say, "I learned so much from this experience that will serve me well the next time."

We did not come to this planet to protect against failure. We came to fully and joyfully manifest ourselves, offering our love, gifts and talents to each other and the planet. Today, why not devote yourself to effort and excellence?

 
 
 

Follow Margaret Paul, Ph.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/innerbonding