Stop Saying You Want the Goal and Start Saying You Want the Process

I had a recent moment of self-revelation brought on by my hair, of all things.

Have you ever found yourself wanting something, but not willing to go through what it takes to have it?

Wanting to be at the top of your field, but not willing to put in the long years of study to get there?

Wanting to have great arms/ a flat stomach/ thinner thighs, but not willing to work out and cut back on sugar?

Wanting to earn a great salary but not willing to spend decades of your life building a career?

I realized that I always want my hair to look great (who doesn’t? I guess) – but not just generically great. Great like perfectly done great. Not the trendy “messy bun” look, or “beach waves” which can be fudged with a bit of spray. No, I consistently want my hair to look completely perfect, like I’m on a movie set.

But the process of actually doing my hair perfectly every day? No way. Washing it, spending lots of money on hair products, the time it takes to blow-dry and set and on and on… I don’t want the process. I just want the end result! I want the benefits without the cost.

The whole hair scenario made me realize that I needed to start re-framing my desires, because the end result is really just a tiny part of the overall process it takes to get there. And if my time- my life- is valuable to me, then I need to start wanting the processes that take most of my time.

What if instead of saying, “I want to be an expert at x”, I say, “I want to spend a lot of time doing x, whether or not anyone is watching”?

That really changes things, doesn’t it?

I want to spend many many years studying one particular topic.

I want to work out regularly and eat more vegetables and fewer treats.

I want to spend at least 20 years putting in long hours to build a career.

Re-framing my desires in terms of the process and not just the goal makes me really think carefully about whether or not I actually want any given thing.

Am I happy in the process as well as with the goal?

It also helps me be less envious of others: I can say, I wish I had her hair, but I’m happier sleeping an extra hour instead of getting up early to do it every morning. Or, I envy his expertise in the subject, but I’m glad I spent my time studying other things. Or, I wish I had their house, but I’m content not working 90 hours a week to be able to afford the mortgage.

Most of our lives are spent living the processes, not the goals, so if we don’t like the processes, what are we doing?

Of course, there are some processes in life we can’t really get out of! For our good and the good of those around us. But can we shift our thinking about them? Or even adjust the process a bit to make it more enjoyable? I didn’t want to shave off my hair altogether to get rid of the process ; ) so instead I opted for a haircut that requires minimal “doing” on my part. It might not look great every day, but the process to getting it looking pretty darn good is a whole lot easier than it was before.

Now whenever I find myself envying someone’s hair, (/goal) I try to take joy in the extra time and energy I have from not having to do mine very often (/process).


Have you ever re-thought your goals in terms of the processes?