How to Set Process-Oriented Goals and Be a Success Now

This is the part 3 of a series on how to set process-oriented goals.  In the last chapter, we learned what it means to be process-oriented and what the benefits are.  Here, we’re going to look at how to set goals based on new paradigm, and start living the benefits of your goals right away.

In a hurry?  Read the digest version.

In the previous installment, we examined the difference between result-oriented and process-oriented goals, and defined that process-oriented goals are the desirable kind. They set you up on a path, where every moment is joyful and celebrated. Instead of sacrificing today’s joy and happiness for a benefit of tomorrow, you start experiencing the joy and happiness at the present without sacrificing the future.

To set process-oriented goals, you have to ask different set of questions than those you run through to set up result-oriented goals. With result-oriented, you consider the effectiveness, impact, and relevance of the goals you set. You primarily consider the benefits that come out of reaching your goals.

With process-oriented goals, you consider the path, the state you’ll be in while you’re pursuing your goals, and you make up your goals based on it.

Imagine being at a fork in the road. One road take you to Minneapolis, a big city. The other take you to St. Paul, a close yet not the same city. In result-oriented paradigm, you compare the cities — which one suits you? Which setting will you like? If you look at the path at all, it is to determine which one will get you there faster.

But in the process-oriented goals, you look at the roads to get to these cities first. Which path offers you more beautiful scenery? Which road has more potential for bumping into friendly strangers? You pick the destination based on the path you like. The final destination does change as the result of your choosing the path, but they are close enough. Once you get to one, you can always move on to the other.

You see how different this is from traditional goal-setting.

So consider these questions as you try to identify goals based on the path, not the destination. Let’s use choosing a career goal as an example to illustrate points. You are considering a type of career you like to pursue, and you are wondering how to get there.

1. How can you do what you love, starting now?

Let’s say you want to become a teacher.

In result-oriented thinking, you look at a college certification program. You’ll pay a lot of money, spend a lot of time, take many courses you don’t care about — you get the picture. It’s all for the benefits you’ll reap once you get there.

In process-oriented paradigm, you look at your objective and go, how can I do what I love about my goal, starting now? So instead of going to college, you start teaching. Maybe you can play an instrument and start teaching younger kids. Or baseball. Or just help them do homework. Or work at a summer camp. You find that you love teaching, so you keep going, growing into more demanding and higher-paying jobs that involve teaching. Instead of spending 4 years going to school, you start doing what you love — and by the time the same 4 year passes, you have the equivalent of professional experience, and are making much more than a first-year teacher is making in your state.

True, you’re not a certified teacher, teaching in public schools. But who cares? You’re teaching. What you love about teaching is fully there, and you experienced it from day one.

The additional benefit of this approach is that you get to test out a part of what you intended for your destination, early. So you can see if what you wanted is really right for your or not.

2. Is it a finish line or a light house?

Process-oriented goals are a light house, not a goal line. Dream big and let your imagination run wild, because getting there is not the point. Being on the path is. In a race, you fail unless you reach the finish line. In a journey, you can’t fail as long as you stay on the journey.

In the Bible, Moses led his people out of slavery in Egypt, heading for the Promised Land. But did you know that Moses actually died before setting foot on the Promised Land himsefl? He died right before his people reached the destination. He got a glimpse of his goal but he did not make it. The Bible does not detail to see if Moses died in dismay and disappointment — but if I were to speculate, I would think that he died in peace.

My father died without realizing his goal — to find a career that was truly him. After spending 25 years being a corporate employee ( they call it “salaryman” in Japan), he quit and became a pastor. This is a career move unheard of in Japan, particularly in his generation. He was about to enter the years when he would make the most money — the pinnacle of what he was working toward. But upon becoming a pastor, he realized that that wasn’t him, either. If he was alive today, I would turn him into blogging. He had a journalistic interest in big, academic subjects — sociology, economy, anthropology, and so on. He just didn’t know how to turn his interest into a career, and he died in the process of exploration.

But did he lament his failure on his death bed? No, he didn’t. He said that he had put in good efforts, and that he was satisfied with what he did.

When you pursue a light house, the point of the pursuit ceases to be the destination. It’s what you do on the path. How do you tell if your goal is a light house? Simply ask this. If I died before I get there, will I be disappointed?

3. Can you fail on your mission?

If you answered yes to the question, then you’re putting too much emphasis on the goal.

Let’s say your dream is to travel to a particular country. It’s expensive to travel, so you save up your money. This is perfectly normal — and perfectly fallible. Your cat may need a trip to ER and deplete your bank account. Your dream is set back. You get frustrated or overwhelmed by how much you still have to save.

What about traveling do you enjoy? Seeing great sights or experiencing different cultures? Instead of setting the travel as the ultimate destination and making sacrifices in order to get to do it as soon as possible, leave the travel as the pinnacle but go on a life-long quest to see sights and experience different culture. Volunteer at the nearest university and talk to foreign students. Visit the historical sites in your area. Travel somewhere closer first.

The moment you get on the path to a process-oriented goal, you win. If you are being too attached to the idea of getting there, that means you’re still leaving yourself open to failure. Cut that part out, and you’ll never worry about failing your mission.

4. When will you reap the benefit?

Imagine you achieve your goal. But nobody will know about it. You can’t boast it anywhere. Nobody will appreciate its significance. Will you still do it?

Result-oriented goals have the majority of the benefits waiting for you at the destination. It’s your reward for struggling your way up to the top.

Process-oriented goals let you reap most of those rewards the moment you start pursuing it. Sure, there’s some added bonus when you get there. But that’s really not your primary concern. You just live the moment, where you are now. Where you are is all you need to be.

5. Does it excite you or overwhelm you?

My wise friend Kent the Financial Philosopher put it the best:

The expectation or anticipation of the experience is almost always greater than that of the acquisition or realization of our desire’s object. It’s “the thrill of the chase:”

Back to the teacher example, it can feel quite overwhelming to start a college career. You have 4 long years of studying to do before you begin to do what you want to do. Result-oriented goals have the tendency to make you see the distance still left to travel, instead of the distance already traveled. It’s because getting there is the whole point.

Pursuing a process-oriented goal, you truly experience the thrill of the chase. You almost don’t want to reach the destination, because you don’t want the journey to be over. But fear not — life has abundance of goals for you to choose from, countless possibilities of thrilling chases. Once you accomplish your goal, you simply pick another one that looks fun to chase. The life on the road never ends, because life is the road.

How I switched from result-orientation to process-orientation

I’ve always wanted to be a musician. Particularly, I started out with wanting to be a rock guitarist, playing in a famous band.

So that’s what I tried, But even though I was doing what I set out to do — being a band, playing gigs — I wasn’t having fun. Well, I do enjoy playing and performing, don’t get me wrong. But I was too obsessed with the notion of “making it” — becoming “big” and famous — a result of my effort. And I never “made it.” And the frustration from not being able to get there really sucked the joy out of performing.

After years of banging my head against walls, my goals slowly started changing. I still dream of making it big, but now I focus on doing what I love to do, instead of learning the tricks of the trade (if there ever was such a thing in the music industry) to get there as soon as possible.

For example, I used to go to these bars and clubs and parties hang out, trying to make connections with other musicians. I never liked most of them very much, but they were better-connected than I was, so I better make friends with them. I played many crappy gigs. I played to many empty bars. They say that’s a necessary part of the process. I would add this: only if it’s just a small part of an otherwise enjoyable pursuit.

It wasn’t a small part, that was all I was doing — it were not fun. The weight of the goal had crushed the fun out of even stuff I would enjoy if I wasn’t trying to be a rock star.

So I ditched all that. I never felt at home at bars — I don’t drink much, I hate smoke, I didn’t see people who were truly like me hanging out there. Sure, there were other musician-wannabes. But I’m much more at home in schools and churches. I love talking about big stuff, like culture, society, life. I had fun in college, but not in any college party scene.  Someone once told me that I was too wholesome to be a rock musician.  😉

Nowadays, I do what I enjoy, which is to combine my love of music with my interest in technology. I use my computer to help me make music, and employ internet and web sites and blogs to promote my music. I don’t spend much time at bars and parties, trying to befriend people I don’t like. I am happy doing this. My goals changed a little, as the result of my switching my path away from the conventional method of becoming a rock star. My goal is to spend my life doing what I love, which is making music and writing. I fully intend to be well-known for what I do — when you spend a life time doing something you love, people can’t help but take notice. But being well-known is not the point, if still a part of the picture. I’m already doing what I want already. Achieving my dream will be an icing on the cake.

Closing Thoughts

By knowing and applying process-oriented paradigm to your big goals, you unlock the potential for joy and happiness immediately, instead of putting it somewhere in the future and having to walk a painful path. It’s a funny way to look at it, but process-oriented goals make you ready to die any moment, without leaving behind unfinished business. You become satisfied with your life in the very present moment you live in. And this creates a sense of peace and security. You simply can’t fail, when living this way.

However, in reality, we can’t apply process-oriented paradigm to every single goal-making, big and small. Rather, the art lies in how to blend and apply both process-oriented and result-oriented principles. In the next chapter, we’ll look at how to use this concept in day-to-day life.


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