How to Enjoy The Process And Let Go Of The Outcome

Learning how to be mindful and in the present.

Nov 12, 2019

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Mindfulness

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What if someone asked you to bake a cake? What’s the first thing that comes to mind? Do you picture the cake itself, a delicious tower of chocolate, in all its glory? Perhaps you imagine a billowy vanilla birthday cake with the perfect design of sprinkles and buttercream frosting.

When setting out to do something like baking a cake, we tend to think in terms of the outcome. Rather than simply enjoying baking the cake, you become so attached to the expectation of what you would produce, that you miss out on the process entirely. 

Can you think of areas in your life in which the same way of thinking applies? Perhaps you have a goal to become fitter. Instead of reveling in those moments of healthy eating and exercise, many become obsessed with the way they want to look. Often times, this can make people feel frustrated and hard on themselves. 

Perhaps, you have a goal to become financially stable. You may become fixated on the number in your bank account, rather than take pride in personal development and working hard.

When we feel ready to accomplish something, we long for that immediate gratification. People often set goals with the end-game in mind, expecting that change to happen overnight. 

Life is meant to be enjoyed. But when we become too attached to the outcome, it removes us from enjoying being in the present moment. In doing so, you’ll miss out on all the amazing things happening in your life right now. 

Emotional Surfing
Many of our most precious goals don’t happen quickly. They require hard work and persistence. These periods of change don’t always feel good. In fact, more often than not, they can feel extremely painful. When results don’t happen fast enough, you naturally feel frustrated. 

Navigating new waters leads us through unpredictable situations. Waves of intense emotions can rise up, making us feel uneasy, frightened, and panicked even. Often times, we want to push those feelings aside. 

What if, instead of fighting against the current, we rode with it? Think of it as emotional surfing, Rather than rejecting feelings of discomfort, you allow yourself to feel. Here’s how it works:

Step 1: Go to a quiet place. Bring to mind the situation that troubles you.

Step 2: Notice any sensations you feel in the physical body. Perhaps you feel shortness of breath, tension in the chest, aches in your shoulders, or tightness in the neck. 

Step 3: Identify uncomfortable emotions that you feel such as anger, shame, guilt, anxiety, grief, sadness, and so on. Referencing a list of emotions may help in getting specific about how you feel. 

Step 4: Sit with those feelings in the mind and body. Allow yourself to experience the emotion. You can even lean into them, making them feel bigger than they do. Notice the way you respond. Do thoughts come up that resist against the emotions (“I shouldn’t feel this way”)? Do you notice yourself pushing these emotions away?

According to a Harvard University study, simply identifying areas of tension, whether felt in the body or emotionally can actually alleviate the intensity of discomfort. Through emotional surfing, you allow tension to pass through you like a wave rises and falls. When you made those feelings bigger initially, they probably became smaller in the end.

Let the Process Guide You
As you go through changes, meditation practices like emotional surfing bring awareness to what’s going on internally and acknowledge, in a healthy way, what we experience during the process of change. 

Without awareness, if we feel angry, we may act out by yelling at a loved one or breaking something. When we feel sad, we may resort to pacifiers like drinking alcohol or overeating. Meditation brings awareness to the discomfort without letting those emotions take control over our actions. 

What do these uncomfortable feelings tell you?
Sure, these emotions might not feel good, but they can teach you valuable lessons. Perhaps they point out areas of yourself that you need to improve. Let them guide you in the direction you need to go to break unhealthy behavioral patterns and move forward.

Removing Expectations
We often think of life in a linear way. That if we complete Step A, we can check the box, and carry on to Step B, C, and D. But that’s not how life works. Along the way, we arrive at twists, turns, road bumps, and dead ends, which lead to unexpected outcomes.

You’ll put yourself in a box by following a rigid straight path toward goals that doesn’t open up the space to learn and grow. 

Sure, setting end goals and having a vision helps to accomplish our dreams. However, having too strong of an attachment to the outcome, we could miss out on unexpected opportunities that arise along the way. You may discover the things that once mattered no longer do.

So find beauty in the unexpected surprises. Set goals but give yourself flexibility to learn and grow along the way. By allowing ourselves to slow down, we experience the sheer enjoyment of the process. When we are mindful and focus on the enjoyment of the process, the result comes as a surprise, as a gift, as the cherry on top of the cake. 

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ALLISON MICHELLE DIENSTMAN, CONTRIBUTOR
Working from her laptop as a freelance writer, Allison lives as a digital nomad, exploring the world while sharing positivity and laughter. She is a lover of language, travel, music, and creativity with a degree in Chinese language and literature.