Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

Measure the Process, Not the Results

NOTE: This is part of a series of personal lessons on life, success, and goal-setting as a way of ending the year on a reflective note. To catch up, you can read lessons below.

Measure the Process, Not the Results

My friend Michael Hyatt is hosting a free live training on how to actually achieve your goals for 2018. Learn more about it here.

Okay, now let’s get into it:

NOTE: To listen to the audio of the lesson, click the player below.

Play

Lesson 4: Measure the Process, Not the Results

Most of my life, I’ve felt like a loser.

I know that sounds harsh, but it’s true. I’ve just never felt good enough.

When I played soccer as a chubby little ten-year-old, I was too slow to score any goals, so my dad (who was the coach) had me play defense.

That year, I won the “Most Improved Player” award. This, in a way, is a pretty good metaphor for my life: good, but not great. Solid effort, Jeff. Nice try.

In Sixth Grade, I got my first real taste of greatness by winning the school spelling bee. The winning word was “acquiescence,” and the eighth grader who lost allegedly cried the entire bus ride home.

It was the only time I ever made an eighth grader cry, and to be honest, it felt good. To beat somebody. To win. To not be a loser.

The next year, I didn’t practice at all and lost to a sixth grader. The losing word was “flourishing.”

Most of my life has been like this: one step forward, one step back. Make a little progress, then regress.

Measure the chase

It’s not until recently that I’ve learned why I do this. I set goals, accomplish them, then slowly start to sabotage myself.

Do you know why we humans do this?

Because we don’t believe we deserve success. That can mean whatever you want, but the reason we get a little bit of happiness or money or influence and then squander it is because, deep down inside, we don’t feel worthy of such things.

Now, the reasons we do this are complicated and you should probably talk to a therapist about them (I do), but I want to offer a simple way that you don’t have to feel like a loser.

It’s so easy and yet almost no one does this:

Want to feel healthy? Great. You can set a goal to “lose 10 pounds” or whatever, but don’t fixate on the outcome. Research proves that we humans don’t love accomplishing results as much as we love chasing results.

So what should you do?

Measure the chase, of course.

How you achieve something is vastly more important than whether or not you achieve it.

For example, you can lose 10 pounds by starving yourself for a week, but that will slow your metabolism down and likely cause you to gain more weight in the long run. It’s an unsustainable practice.

The same goes for setting a goal of writing a book. If you sprint through NaNoWriMo and complete your first novel but haven’t developed the daily discipline of working on your writing, it’s unlikely that you will continue being able to write great stuff.

What I’m talking about here is habits, practices, and process.

Celebrate the process

So, what should you do about that weight loss goal? Measure the thing that you’re doing to get healthier. Did you go for a walk today? Eat enough vegetables? Stay under your caloric goal for the day? Then you should feel good about that.

What about that writing goal? Did you write your 500 words today? Great!

Time to celebrate!

After my second book came out, The In-Between, it didn’t do as well as my first two books.

I remember sitting on my back porch, texting a mentor of mine, saying how let down I felt, expecting him to commiserate with me. Here’s what he said:

“There was a time when where you are sitting now seemed out of reach. Rejoice, my friend. Rejoice!”

Look. I don’t know much about anything. I’ve been a loser my whole life, remember? But I do know this:

If you cannot celebrate the process, you won’t be able to enjoy the outcome.

So start measuring the process.

A great way to start doing that would be to attend Michael Hyatt’s upcoming training on goal-setting. Click here to reserve your spot.

What are you working on right now? How can you celebrate the process? Share in the comments.

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • Very true Jeff! I’m a blogger, and I have learn’t to celebrate my efforts. This keeps me going even when my results fall below expectations.

  • Blindwomanwriting

    So far in this series, this is the best post. It feels the most real. I appreciate your honesty–thank you.

  • Solid advice. We always hear about the go-getters who live for their goals. But for the rest of us, enjoying the moment means more, and it’s more likely to keep us going on all the days we haven’t hit any particular milestone. Because, of course, that’s most days.

    It’s triply important for writing. I don’t know any writer who honestly writes for the joy of “having a book done”– or at least, the ones who do don’t understand the months of sheer effort that go into writing anything that’s worthwhile. That’s why most people shouldn’t be writers: the work outweighs any “reward” at the end, if they see it as work instead of as play.

    “The prize in writing is that after years of being locked in a room with your dreams, you have years locked in a room with your dreams.”

  • I always say take it one day at a time and be flexible in the process. Great advice here — I especially like the point on celebrating each of our milestones no matter how big or small. As long as we keeping moving forward even after a set back we can accomplish our goals.

  • Beautiful and Deep! Thank You Jeff!

  • Lisa K

    This post means SO MUCH to me. I’m a runner, and I started running as an adult. I’m slow, I’m overweight, I’ll never be competitive. It’s just not what I’m made for. So I run these long races, knowing I’ll be one of the last finishers (if I even finish), but I keep coming back. Why? Because of the process. The process is a thing of beauty, where I get knocked down and keep getting back up, where I test my resolve and find out what I’m made of. If the process doesn’t batter you, you weren’t trying hard enough – and if you weren’t breaking a sweat, how much did you really care about your goal? Go all in and love the process. Embrace the suck. It’s worth it.

  • Emma K

    I never thought about measuring the chase but that is what motivates me the most. Now, I need to figure out how to measure the process to make my dreams reality.

  • Danielle Bernock

    I couldn’t agree more. It’s a lesson I had to learn and feel like I’m finally doing it. Celebrating the victories along the way. Like in my 30-day practice in public I’ve been doing by your prompting. When I’m tempted to look at my results as an end instead of an increase it brings a let down. But I’ve increased. I’ve published every day for 26 days – I’m celebrating. A year ago I could do this. But I’m doing it now. Thank you!

  • Stephen D. King

    This resonates with me right now…I have experienced “measuring the chase” – in some of my dieting efforts – but had never put a name to it. When I have approached my eating choices in this way, I have had more success than I ever have had when simply measuring the weight loss (or gain), etc. Calling out and identifying this approach helps me to see it as a tool that can be applied to any other area of my life, including…WRITING. Thank you, Jeff!

  • Jeanna Toler Fox

    Super Soul Sunday. I don’t know what it really means, but I liked the term, so I decided to use it. One Sunday a month I need to take off to work on my soul, reflect on my accomplishments, and think about my failures in a positive way (it didn’t happen, so make a change so it will). I need to enjoy life, beauty, take a walk on the beach, photograph a river. Go fishing. Hug my grand baby and watch her smile. Just be with myself, enjoying who I am and what I’ve done. Here I am being intentional again. The last Sunday of the month is Super Soul Sunday. It will be my habit #2.

  • Jairet

    Definitely important to track the process. I’ve lost count of the times I focused on the resutl I wanted and ended up bummed and frustrated because I was “going nowhere.” Now, whether it be health or professional, I make sure to focus on the steps. Like your wise mentor once said, there was a time when I thought it imposssible to get where I now may find myself unsatisfied or frustrated. Also, I assume when your *second* book came out there was only one before it. 😉 All the best!