The Part We Have Control Over

How will you know if you’ve achieved your goals?

The answer seems obvious: when the goal is met, right? “My goal is to get admitted to this program.” or “Our goal for the event is to attract 150 attendees.” or “The goal for the software roll out is that it should result in no down time on the server.”

That’s fine to the extent that the person or group setting the goal has control over most or all of the factors that will affect its success. But is that realistic?

What if it storms on the day of the outdoor event? Or, for that matter, on the day of the software roll out? What if you’ve assembled the strongest possible application packet that you can put together but it isn’t enough to sway the gatekeepers?

In this very thoughtful post on The Tiny Soprano, blogger Natalie Christie shares what she dubs “probably the most valuable piece of advice I have ever received.” In her words:

I had the privilege when I was 20 years old of learning from the stupendous Dame Joan Sutherland. She was a vocal titan, but in person remarkably grounded in an earthy, no nonsense Australian diva kind of way.

I would start to sing a phrase and she would interject with probably the most valuable piece of advice I have ever received –

“Stop. Think of the note before you sing it.”

So, before I even started to make a sound, I would focus silently on the quality of the sound I wanted to make, the way I wanted the vowel to be shaped in my mouth, and the intention behind the words I was about to sing.

The difference this advice made to me as an artist and as a person was profound. When I followed her advice, I felt strong. More in control, of my voice and my craft. It was not about me so much anymore, but about the music and the responsibility I had been blessed with – to do it justice, to make it sing, to move people.

Can you sense why that’s a BIG shift?

Because intention shifts the focus away from the outcome – “Oh please let her like my voice!” to the process – “How do I want this note to sound?”

And when we shift from outcome to process, we dislodge ourselves from the fear and unpredictability of the future.

That is, when we shift to a focus on the process we focus on the part where we actually have control. We can’t imagine every possible eventuality that might affect the outcome–whether positively or negatively.

We can, however, make every effort to make sure that our role in the process is as creative, thorough, thoughtful, appropriate and/or enthusiastic as the situation calls for. Once we’ve done that, whatever happens will happen. But we won’t be left stewing over the “what ifs” in regard to our effort and attitude. And that counts for a lot.

Click here to check out Christie’s full post, as she develops this idea further and makes some suggestions about bringing this focus on the process into the little everyday moments in addition to our bigger projects.

What does a focus on the process rather than the outcome change for you? What experiences do you remember fondly because of your approach to the process even though the outcome wasn’t what you had hoped for?

2 thoughts on “The Part We Have Control Over”

  1. AaronB

    I’ve found that being focused on the process instead of the outcome helps me be more efficient and prepared. Projects are also less stressful, when I focus on the process.

  2. Noel Rasor

    True for me, too–this removes a lot of performance anxiety as I can only do what I can do, but I can definitely do that much.

Comments are closed.