If there's one thing that characterizes most entrepreneurs, it's this: We're f---ing impatient.
We want success and we want it now. We want traffic to our site the first day it's up. We want our product to sell like the latest IPhone. We want to make 6-figures in our first year of business. Oh yeah, and did I mention we rarely want to put in the actual work to make that happen?
And that disconnect-- what we want versus the reality of making it happen-- makes us miserable. We're so focused on the outcomes-- the launches, the paychecks, the contracts-- that the daily grind feels demotivating and awful . So let's fix that, shall we?
Let go of the outcome
You’ve heard the old cliche, “It’s the journey-- not the destination-- that matters.” Of course you've heard it: we're hammered over the head with this all the time. We know we need to enjoy the present, live in the moment, carpe diem and all that other shit.
But do we actually practice it? Of course not. Because it’s really hard not to care about the destination-- especially as an entrepreneur.
Listen, I love goals. Setting and achieving goals make my world go ‘round. The work I do with creative entrepreneurs is based on setting clear, ambitious objectives and creating strategies to achieve them. Hell, I wrote a whole blog post on goals.
But when our fulfillment in our business depends on the outcome of our goals? That's when we get into trouble.
Let me tell you a story that's completely unrelated to business, but has helped me be a little less obsessed with results-- and a whole lot happier in life.
The danger of being goal-oriented
A couple years ago, I ran a 10k race. I'm a long-distance runner and 10k wasn’t a challenging distance, so I wanted to challenge myself on speed.
Normally when I run, I enjoy the scenery, or get lost in my thoughts, or focus on how my body feels. But not this time.
The race began and I started running with one goal in mind: finish that damn race as quickly as I could. For 10 kilometers my only focus was the time on my watch and the finish line.
It was the worst race of my life. The entire time, I just wanted it to be over. I was literally wishing it away.
To make it worse, my time was mediocre, so when I finished, I was pissed about it. I felt like the whole race was a waste of time and was mad at myself for not having achieved my goal. When my husband asked me, “Well, did you at least enjoy running the race?” my answer was, “F--k no.”
This is the problem with focusing on the outcome of goals, rather than the process of achieving them. We just want the “journey” to be over with so we can reap the rewards of the “destination.”
The problem with that is twofold: 1) even when we do reach our intended outcome, it never makes us as happy as we think it will, and 2) if we don’t achieve the outcome we want, we feel like the whole endeavor was a giant waste of time.
How to "enjoy the journey"
So how do you get past that? How do you learn to enjoy the journey, and not just the destination in your business- and life?
This calls for another story.
After the disastrous 10k (and several months of therapy, but that’s another topic altogether), I ran a much longer trail race. This one was a mofo: 22 miles long, one mile elevation gain, five and a half hours of running/hiking.
But this time, I didn’t look at my watch. I didn’t think about the finish line. Instead, I focused on why I signed up in the first place: being outside, using my body, feeling strong, running with a community of people who share my values.
Whenever there was a massive hill, instead of hating life, I reminded myself why it was important to me to challenge myself physically. When my knees started hurting, I would look around at the scenery and think about how lucky I was to be physically capable of doing something like this. When I really started feeling the fatigue after about 20 miles, I found another runner to keep pace with and we encouraged each other until the end.
My race time wasn’t amazing that day, but that didn’t matter. The outcome-- finishing the race-- was just an added bonus to what had been a wonderful experience. And I’ll tell you what: that race changed me.
It helped me realize that the outcome isn't nearly important as everything that comes before it
Enjoy the destination and the journey
All of this said, you shouldn't give up on having goals. Goals drive us forward. They help our business stay on track and keep us focused.
So keep your goals, just see if you can put less pressure on yourself to achieve them. Keep trying to grow, just make sure the process of growing brings you joy as well. And keep striving to achieve, just appreciate the experience of working towards your goals as much as you appreciate reaching them.
That’s my challenge to you. Think about your current business goals and ask yourself: what are you getting from the process of working towards your goal?
What are you experiencing? What are you learning? How are you growing as a person and a professional?
Don’t lose sight of the outcome, but see if you can find happiness and fulfillment through the journey itself.
Because that journey? It’s called life.
Try to enjoy it.