Process vs. Product Thinking

Posted on May 4, 2011


Few things feel quite as good as when we achieve a goal-when we finally run that marathon, or lose the10 lbs we’ve been struggling with or yes, of course, when we finally meet that special someone.

But in our culture, sometimes we can get so caught up in achieving results that we forget to enjoy the journey. We can get so focused on achieving the goal-and placing our future happiness upon the achievement of that goal-that we forget to enjoy the process of getting there.

This product-focused thinking is detrimental to our long-term success and happiness for several reasons.

1. The journey is often much longer than the destination.

The actual achievement of our results will be much shorter that the path we had to take to get there. It takes several months to train for a marathon, but only a few hours to actually run one. And once the race is over, one may go out with friends to celebrate, but that celebration will be short-lived.

It actually makes sense to make sure that you make the process fun, as it will be a much longer stretch of time than the product. Many people who work tirelessly and painfully towards a goal (rather than making the process fun and enjoyable), actually report feeling depressed when they’ve achieved their goal.

It’s not that they aren’t happy about their achievement, it’s that the achievement period (the product of their hard work), is such a short time of happiness that it feels inconsequential in comparison to the painful struggle to get there.

Some people feel disappointed and depressed upon completing a big goal, because they put an unrealistic expectation on the end result. This leads us to problem #2….

2. Banking your future happiness on a results robs you of present happiness.

If I got a $1 for each time I heard someone tell me-When I finally get X, I’ll be happy (or financially secure, or at peace, or whatever), well, I could retire right now.

Many people just completely miss that point of setting goals and working towards their dreams. Happiness is not some elusive goal to be placed in the future, dependent on a result you may never achieve. It is something that you cultivate while you are working towards your dreams. As the Buddhists wisely remind us, happiness is something that comes from inside our own selves, not from the achievement of a result.

Setting a path towards your goals and dreams is a sign that you believe in yourself and your future. It symbolizes a positive trust in the awesome power of your willpower, creativity and hard work. Don’t waste the valuable present moment-and your potential for happiness in this moment-on a potential future result.

3. The personal growth you achieve during the process is way more significant than the product. 

If you focus solely on the goal you wish you meet, if you give yourself permission only to celebrate your accomplishments, you’ll completely miss out on one of the most amazing things about this whole process: your personal growth.

Each step of the way, every hurdle and every success is an opportunity to reflect, to celebrate and to revise your process accordingly. By putting all of your attention on the end result, you’ll forget to take a look at all of the changes that are occurring as you’re finding your way.

This month, we’re going to examine the process of creating healthy relationships-and the many pitfalls you can expect along this way. My intention is to help you shift your perception from product-based thinking to process-based thinking. This shift makes the whole journey of creating a great relationship a lot more fun.