Moving from result-oriented to process-oriented

A young professional recently asked me how one could go from being results-oriented to process-oriented, so that one would not get demotivated if they don’t see results.

Well, it’s not something that can be learned overnight, but I’ll put down my two cents from having coached plenty of plenty of young professionals and management students in their mid-to-late 20s (and who took about a fair number of months to internalise this). It may ring true for you or you may dismiss it – it’s just my perspective on which mindset is more useful.

Being results-oriented is ingrained in today’s business and corporate world – you see it everywhere. But it’s counter-productive. The reason is simple: you’re attaching your happiness (or goals) to something that is outside of you and not in your control.

The perils of identifying with something outside of our control.

When one attaches their self-evaluation or identity to something that is outside of them (results), one is setting themselves up for disappointment, disillusionment and unhappiness.

That’s the reason so many millennials are unhappy – their parents have told them, while growing up, that they are special and that they are meant for great things. Only once one grows up does one realise that the world is not as rosy and that things are not going to go one’s way, most of the time.

Most events in life are not in your control.

No one actually sits us down and teaches us that one can’t control life and its outcomes, not even our parents. Since society appreciates results, that’s what’s ingrained in us, whether it’s exam results while we were students or quarterly results in professional life.

There’s no reason to be a pessimist either – optimists overall do better, because pessimists don’t give it an earnest shot (they’re closer to the truth though). Optimists try enough times that they give themselves at least a shot at success.

The way out

It’s important to detach yourself from the result – but that’s easier said than done.

A much better question to ask is: Did I give it my best shot? If I have, and the result is still not good, then I know I need to get better. And if I haven’t given it my best shot, then I’d be a fool to give up, as I haven’t given myself half a decent chance.

Make it a point to quickly correct yourself if you haven’t given it your best shot, or it will become a habit.

History is full of examples of people who were relentless in their pursuit, regardless of the result.

Think of Marvan Atapattu, the Sri Lankan cricketer for a second. Making his debut in Test cricket for Sri Lanka, Marvan scored a duck in his first innings. And again, in his second innings. He was dropped. After 21 months, he got a second chance. He scored 0 and 1 (it’s argued that even that single was actually a leg-bye). Got dropped again. 17 months later, he got a third chance. His scores: 0 and 0. After 3 more years (and a total of 6 years since his debut), he got a fourth chance – after having scored 1 (generous) run in 6 previous innings. This time, he came good. So good that they made him Captain.

The problem is that the years and years of silent hard work don’t get reported – it doesn’t attract eyeballs. Everyone thinks it’s an overnight success. That’s just not how the world works. There are no shortcuts – period. The people who work harder and want something more will outlast the ones who only have talent (or not even that) to bank upon.

Only talent or potential alone doesn’t get anyone anywhere. Not even being born to a privileged family will get you past a certain point (though it does open a few doors).

At the end of the day, it just boils down to:

  • whether you’re clear about what you want;
  • whether you want it badly enough; and
  • how far you’re willing to work without results until you get there. 

After that, you just need:

  • consistent and deliberate practice;
  • quick and honest feedback loops;
  • a coach / mentor / advisor who keeps you accountable and grounded; and
  • the right environment at home / work.

If you put these in place, you will have nailed the PROCESS. Once you’ve done that, wait for the results to appear by themselves and keep putting in the hard work until then.

We live in times where there’s great uncertainty. Loved ones’ health is at risk. Businesses are suffering like never before. Someone else’s carelessness may put you, your family, friends or colleagues at risk.

Stoics dealt with this by asking themselves a simple question: what’s in my control? Focus on improving by just a little bit, every day.
Be the best (version of yourself). And do yourself a favour: leave the rest.