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Mindful Bytes: Process vs Outcomes

Updated: Mar 4, 2022

I hinted at this mindset in my last post. I’m far from a master of any mindset I write about, but I’ve experienced living them enough to comment. This one, I’m on the outside looking in. I’m still working on it.

This concept has intrigued me because it’s most commonly expressed at the highest level of achievement in any field. Athletes, entertainers, business people. This tends to be the common thread. And that makes it so appealing to me. You wonder how the best achieve the best, its concepts like this.

I’ve had James Clear’s Atomic Habits in my house for over a year and I still haven’t read it. Partly because it gets recommended to me so much that I’m afraid reading it will just turn into an unconscious plagiarization exercise when I write. But I’ve read so many great quotes from him on process vs outcome I think I’m just gonna have to bite the bullet and read this thing.

I think 99% of people I know are focused on outcomes over process. I am. Jean Luc and Nick seem to be very process focused relative to the other visible journeys I see. For me that struggle seems like it’s about proportion. Can I get to 50:50 from 80:20? I think so.

The concept of focusing on the process vs the outcome means measuring our success executing an effective set of habits instead of having your behaviour driven by outcomes. It’s nuanced.

For those of us trying to be healthier, the primary method of outcome measurement is weight. And “primary” is an understatement. Over-active scale focus has ruined hundreds of millions of attempts to get healthy. It can reenforce bad habits, under-reward great habits, reduce patience, create unrealistic expectations. Should I go on? Sure we try and tamp down the negative impact of the scale, but the proportional focus on outcomes makes breaking that cycle extremely hard.

Focusing on the process (for me) involves I measuring how many days I exercise. How consistently I stick to my food plan. How often I plan. How engaged I stay in a community of like minded people (you all help with that). Now, those are all kinda outcomes too (eg: how many times I exercise is a numerical outcome). But the more I can find satisfaction and joy in working on my process, the better my outcomes are.

For me, the trap has always been reducing the tension and discipline of my process so it’s easier to find joy in it. I have to approach and design my habits from the other direction. I’ve had to be diligent in creating challenging process goals so I keep growing and evolving what feels “easy”. I’m still creating “easy”, just from the opposite direction.

So what’s so special about focusing on process vs outcomes? Only about 20 things 😁.

For me the most important reason is it’s ability to create consistency. It’s the superpower anyone trying to improve their health should strive for. Not far behind is it’s ability to remove negative emotion from the journey. Outcome focus is more emotional than process focus. Scale wins are exhilarating. Scale defeats are crushing. Sure I can try and focus on all the positives I’ve achieved when I see an un-earned gain on the scale, but the mere fact that I’m really disappointed and needing an internal pep talk means I value the outcome (it was bad) more than the process (it was good and achieved).

Of course reducing the importance of outcomes to 0% won’t work either. If I stick to my process beautifully for a month and gain weight most of the month then (generally) I need to adjust my process. Outcomes are necessary, but they shouldn’t be my weekly focal point.

Focusing on process vs outcome also leads to requiring less effort on our journey. It doesn’t initially feel like that because the effort to form habits tends to be front end loaded. But sticking to your process and creating consistency absolutely means reducing what most of us would consider the effort necessary to get healthy. It also makes the habits more durable because the creation of habits is direct and intentional instead of incidental to chasing an outcome.

This is a thick heavy subject. It’s nuanced. It’s not easily digested. But the advantages are so overwhelming it’s worth all the effort I put into it, times five.

Can I be more committed to the process than the outcome? Wish me luck. 😉😉

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