Enjoy the Ride - Trust the Process

By: David Folmer

 

In the previous two posts I wrote about mindset, and then about honestly identifying what you deem important and acting consistent with your assessment. Yet, as we steadily march toward our goal, one thing to keep in mind is that as you get closer to it, and eventually achieve that goal you hold so dear, it  will inevitably become, well, meh. The law of diminishing marginal return applies to this as when we get close, or after the goal is achieved, the original goal is no longer a sufficient driver or motivator. The stimulus and conditions are now different and can only be reengaged by inserting a new goal into the equation.

 

In multiple circumstances, I went through this exact experience. I wanted to buy my first car; check. Fun, but that wasn’t enough. I wanted to play baseball in college, check. Neat, but whatever. I wanted to squat 315, check. But, now I need to be stronger (thanks, Fraser, you jerk). Funny, I even went as far as identifying with this experience as “I am someone who maintains a mind frame of ‘positive discontent,’ in that whatever I achieve, I will always have another goal.” However, what this did was simply make me less likely to achieve a goal because I always knew that when I did achieve IT, it wasn’t enough, and it was not nearly the culminating event I had once dreamed. In other words, I would be demotivated and have an achievement hangover.

 

Interestingly, people have made millions of dollars promoting this exact mantra. Mark Sanborn, tag line “Developing Leaders in Business and Life,” uses this exact phase as a main message in his course work as a way to “keep pushing to make yourself better,” and even when managing others, “[a]ppreciate and congratulate people on their accomplishments but challenge them not to rest on their laurels.”  Bill Watkins, business-focused motivational speaker, bought in even harder, and labels his course “Positive Discontent: A Secret Weapon for Business,” then goes on with the basic premise that “if you embrace positive discontent, you embrace positive change and celebrate […each] new milestone. But at the same time, you’re never satisfied. You know that each milestone is only one of thousands along the road.” (Editor’s Note: Cue the instant inspiration.) Honestly, even just writing that, I review these individuals’ relatively well-regarded work, I cannot be more demotivated. Reading about this “never enough” mantra, gives me this image of a two-lane, double yellow lined road in the middle of a desert, with nothing else in sight, and just the hazy horizon leading to nothing but more of the same nothingness and boredom, labeled “positive discontent highway.”  

 

Alternatively, I prefer the mantra that while I am aware of my core goals, I am working toward greatness beyond the specificity of what my core goals are right now. To put it in visual terms, I prefer the idea that I am traveling down the most scenic and windy coastal road in the country with intriguing sites to see along the way, aka my core goals, passing by things that are interesting but not enough to detour, my “interested-in bucket,” as I continue my ultimate path towards the long distant destination.

 

The reason I like this latter imagery is not only because I like ocean, but rather because it makes the experience of traveling the path toward core goal achievement part of the experience, and a happiness source. It also means I have the freedom to do what Nick Saban, famed college football coach, Bill Belichick, legendary NFL coach, and Ben Bergeron, Crossfit demi-god, label  as “trust in the process.” And because we know that “progress equals happiness,” (thanks Tony Robbins), doing things like showing up to the gym and making one good food decision is sufficient to warrant an Atta-boy, a checking of the box, and making me want to continue my path towards the next “intriguing site,” aka core goal achievement.  

 

Admittedly, lots of people can maintain the “positive discontent” mind frame very successfully. However, despite the clever prose, which I applaud, I prefer a more positive and incremental approach of “making the process the progress.” Instead of setting up a goal and expecting ultimate happiness to be waiting for me on the other side, I prefer letting goal achievement be a byproduct of honestly identifying what is important, deciding on what you can do to make progress on that goal today. I like better the idea that as I reach a goal, I will waive to it as it passes by, without any discontent, and instead, appreciate that I was able see it, then use the experience to excite and motivate my continued journey.

 

So, if you have ever felt the demotivating aspect of goal achievement, I encourage you to reframe the experience, and enjoy the ride. And send me a postcard.  I may want to add it to the itinerary.

 

 




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