There is this one beautiful idea that I came across in a few books I've read. Each time it appears in a slightly different shape or form but the gist of it is the same. It's a powerful perspective to have in life and it deviates from a more traditional perspective that most of us have. That's why I want to share it with you.
It's about "results". Outcomes of our work or actions. I mean it in a very broad sense. Success, happiness, money, approval, rewards or any kind of self fulfilment are positive examples of these outcomes. Obviously there are also negative counterparts. You get the idea.
There's a common wisdom in these books that I'll share with you shortly below. They all tell us that "end results" are NOT what we should be in pursuit of. We should emotionally distance ourselves from the results of our work and let them happen as side effects. So don't pursue, rather let them ensue. Therefore the title of this post is "Love the Journey. Not the Destination". Or more specifically, love the journey and let the destination happen.
I recently finished this book titled Man's Search for Meaning. It's not just another book. It is a cult and is deeply moving. I highly recommend it. Here's the relevant section:
I always admonish my students both in Europe and America: Don't aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you're going to miss it; for success like happiness cannot be pursued, it must ensue. And it only does so as the unintended side effect of one's personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the byproduct of one's surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and same holds for success. You have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge and then you'll live to see in the long run - in the long run I say! - success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think of it.
Powerful words to base a life on: "Happiness must happen, and same holds for success. You have to let it happen by not caring about it".
The War of Art is another favourite of mine. I keep coming back to it. It's about recognizing and fighting the inner enemy. The enemy of creativity and work. Author calls it "Resistance". It can be described as “the destructive force inside human nature that rises whenever we consider a tough, long-term course of action that might do for us or others something that’s actually good.”
So "Resistance" is within us. And it is insidious. There are certain forces that it loves. It thrives through those forces such as fear of failure, rejection, criticism, the ego of success or pride. Resistance uses all those feelings to stop us from what we are meant to do.
That's why an artist, writer, engineer or anyone who creates or makes, cannot attach himself emotionally to the results of his work. Because anything that's done is done. An artist learns from it and moves on. We have one job and that is to get back to work and continue making (whatever that is we make) to the best of our abilities.
A few quotes from the book:
The professional concentrates on the work and allows rewards to come or not come, whatever they like.”
A professional schools herself to stand apart from her performance, even as she gives herself to it heart and soul. The Bhagavad-Gita tells us we have a right only to our labor, not to the fruits of our labor. All the warrior can give is his life; all the athlete can do is leave everything on the field.
The professional loves her work. She is invested in it wholeheartedly. But she does not forget that the work is not her. Her artistic self contains many works and many performances. Already the next is percolating inside her. The next will be better, and the one after that better still.
Another book where I've come across a similar idea is The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth. I think it's one of the best books to learn about "growth mindset" and how to make such a mindset an integral part of one's life. Here are a few related sections:
Define Success as Sowing, Not Reaping.
Novelist Robert Louis Stevensen said, "I consider the success of my day based on the seeds I sow, not the harvest I reap". That should be the way we judge not only our days, but our entire lives. Unfortunately most people sow little and expect to reap a lot. Their focus is on payday.
Focus on Self-Development, Not Self-Fulfillment
One of the more important things my mentor, consultant Fred Smith, taught me was never to focus my life on self-fulfillment. He said, Self-fulfillment thinks of how something serves me. Self-development thinks of how something helps me to serve others.
Last book I want to quote from is The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. This book is about finding what's truly important to you and letting go of everything else. In other words; a good life is not about giving a fuck about more things, but rather, only giving a fuck about the things that align with your personal values.
Don’t ask yourself what you want out of life. It’s easy to want success and fame and happiness and great sex. Everybody wants those things. A much more interesting question to ask yourself is, “What kind of pain do I want?” What you are willing to struggle for is a greater determinant of how our lives turn out.
You can’t merely be in love with the result. Everybody loves the result. You have to love the process.
The climb to the top is a never-ending upward spiral with new problems always surfacing and new processes that you must fall in love with. You are never allowed to stop climbing because the entire point is to love the climb. If you ever stop loving the climb, the results will never come.
So next time when you feel down and intimidated after a failure, or euphoria and laziness after a victory, remember this lesson. And please stop chasing happiness. What you chase is what you'll never find. Focus on now, focus on the journey.
Thanks for reading.