Last week while in Guatemala, I took a yoga class with the following theme… “The Gift Is In the Effort; Not in the Acquisition.” To be honest, I had an immediate “Yeah, Right” reaction as I have made a lifetime of defining the “gift” as the acquisition regardless of effort.
For most of us, our lives are about “getting there.” We celebrate when we achieve, win, arrive, and conquer. We teach our children to never give up, do what it takes, and no pain, no gain … all in the pursuit of a desired outcome. None of this inherently bad other than it teaches that success is an event & the process solely a vehicle for arrival.
I love the moment at which a desired outcome is in grasp. It’s Tiger’s fist pump when he holes out from 35 yards on the 18th for birdie. At that point, who cares about the process of reading the green, selecting the club, taking the practice swing, setting the mind, relaxing the nervous system, and talking to the caddy? The excitement is in the execution… the achievement.
But is it?
And then, mid downward facing dog, I found myself wondering; “How would my experience change if I, at minimum, viewed both the effort and the acquisition as equal parts?” What if the gift of the process (or effort) is just as grand as the gift of the achievement (acquisition)?
Every day, I witness high performing people stressed out, jaw clenched, and fearing failure striving to achieve their goal. They are largely focused on the acquisition with a willingness to sacrifice a positive experience during the effort in order to win. When they arrive at the goal, typically breathless and out of gas, they have a “Phew, Thank God That Didn’t Blow Up” reaction before hooking onto the next goal that will leave them again breathless and out of gas.
Shifting their paradigm to expect and plan for both a process and an outcome that fulfills and energizes not only creates more growth but is an excellent strategy of self-care. And while that may sound selfish, I know from observation that people who have poor self-care habits eventually crash and burn as leaders.
People want to follow people who illuminate the way, create positive energy, and believe deeply in a cause greater than current status. No one wants to follow a leader into despair; nor do they want to follow a leader through a hellacious, take-no-prisoners process simply to achieve a goal. I suppose our history books are littered with leaders who disprove that, but I cannot think of any examples where it ended well.
As leaders, we have the influence to teach through our actions. We are watched, and if worthy, modeled. What an amazing lesson we can pay forward if we build the habit of mining the gifts of both the process and the achievement.