Focus on the Process not the Outcome

I recently spoke with some students about living fully during what I now call “the process.”

While not a new concept or idea, I define the process as the period between when you start actively working on a long-term goal and the moment you attain the envisioned outcome.

If you aim to pursue graduate studies, the process will begin when you start working on this goal. A series of things have to happen to get you from point A to point B.

You’ll need letters of recommendation, transcripts, writing samples, statements of purpose, etc. The list goes on. Even when you submit your applications, you’ll have to wait. When the acceptance letters roll in, you’ll still have to wait for school to start. If you are not lucky to get in the first time around, you’ll have to wait again for another application cycle. How are you choosing to live during these waiting periods?

When I stopped thinking, I’ll be happy once I reach my goal. I realized that I could still fully engage with life while striving to achieve my long-term goals. I realized I had to continue being my best self during these waiting periods.

  • Yes, off course, if you want to save for graduate school applications, you might consider reducing the number of Uber rides you take.
  • Yes, sure, if you need to take the GRE and you know you need to purchase test-prep materials, you should consider cutting down on weekend brunches. But our lives do not have to be put on hold until we achieve a goal. I’ll ask differently, how are you choosing to engage in the process? Are you just letting time pass by?

Engage in the process

We decide how we want to interact with the process. We can choose to sit back and allow time to pass by, or we can live fully and continue to participate in our favorite activities. Attending a dinner-date with friends will not cause you to fail the GRE nor would rewarding yourself with an episode of your favorite Netflix show.

You may have to jump in and figure things out as you go for some goals. For others, you may have to make necessary calculations of your long and short-term circumstances before you leap. The process, nonetheless, is a critical period, and it is a constant reality. If you think about it, we are often completing one goal and preparing to work on another.

Even if you end up not achieving the outcome you hoped for, engaging fully in the process might lead you to develop skills that may be helpful if you try again or pursue something different.

You are right if you are thinking: nothing beats the sense of accomplishment that comes from an achievement. Like the moment your website goes live or when you submit your final paper before graduation!

If you can find joy and meaning in the process, you can detach yourself from the outcome. Why not make your process exciting? I am sure you want an A on that paper, but a done and submitted paper is what? A done and submitted paper!

Over the years, I have learned to trust that the rewards will come, even if they come late. With this in mind, I can let go of the outcome, and I can better focus solely on the little steps I need to take to accomplish a goal. One win often leads to another. Even when set backs arise, I can strategize about how to overcome them because I am not burdened by the outcome.


While the popular adage, “the journey is the reward,” rings true for me, it took me some time to get here. I am no longer eager to get through the process to achieve results. What you do during the process is just as important. The outcome will always be what it will be.

I am committed to remaining open to the lessons I’ll learn on the path to achieving my goals and committing to celebrating the process.

The short version: Once you have actively started working on a long-term goal, engage in the process as if the waiting period—between your goal and envisioned outcome—is where you are meant to be…for now.

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You may support me with a generous cup of coffee.