On becoming process-oriented

EDITORS NOTE: This blog post is the second in a series, intended to celebrate Embracing Ambiguity reaching the 50 post milestone. If you haven’t already, you should definitely scroll down to see the first post by Jeff. Embracing Ambiguity recently received an email response to a post that asked a lot of great and challenging questions. In celebration of Embracing Ambiguity’s milestone, various authors will be responding to these questions over the next week. In general, the theme is (roughly) “making the decisions that will IMPACT EVERYTHING”, and  “the narratives we tell ourselves about what we’re doing, why and how we feel about it”. It is left to each author to choose how closely they reference / stick to these original prompts. We’re excited to see what they come up with. If you like what you read, share it on Facebook and Twitter and help #EmbAmb increase it’s reach. Happy reading.

I’ve been having a lot of conversations lately about being process-oriented rather than goal-oriented. About focusing on the journey as opposed to the destination, if you haven’t had your daily dose of bad cliches yet. I’ve been having these conversations because it turns out that I am so utterly and entirely goal-oriented, to the horror of the “ideal self” that I have constructed in my mind of who I ought to be. I want to say outright that I’m not suggesting either one is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. I also don’t mean to dismiss any future goals by trying to be process-oriented. I can have goals (oh honey, do I have goals), but it is whether I can let the process of how I reached them be important, or to continually mount all the pressure and life legitimacy on the precarious “Did I get there?”.

My four month calendar above my desk tells me I am in week three of my two year master’s program. It’s Tuesday. Some people keep a calendar on their desk to keep them organized, and while I wholly intended to use it for that purpose I have to tell myself to use mine as a reality check. How many times have I already freaked my shit about not knowing what I would do my thesis on? About how the end results of my thesis would AFFECT THE WORLD AROUND ME? It is the very onset of my masters (it’s Tuesday of week three, let me remind you), and I am already having discussions or letting comments fly about how I hope it only takes me two years, or how on earth will I get a job with a masters of arts and still no employable skills. I am standing at the beginning, with my gaze solely and intently focused on the very end. I have assumed the middle part will be full of stress, crazy netflix binge watching, and more stress and tears. That is such a crazy thing to do — not only did I predict the course of the next two years, but I predicted a sad and imprisoning two years — that I almost feel the need to repeat it. It is crazy, yet it comes so naturally.

And so, I have been told, I am goal-oriented.

I have recently gone rock climbing only twice, and each time I am excited and cannot wait and then I am rock climbing and I am no longer enjoying it. Something happens. I start a problem (fancy speak for a route up the pegs), and am immediately taken over by thoughts of how in months from now I’ll be so strong; I’ll be so much better than I am now; I’ll be doing way harder ones with less difficulty. I cloud the here and now with thoughts of the future. I completely skip the present moment. I have not gone rock climbing in weeks.

And so, I have been told, I am goal-oriented.

Yesterday I took the bus to school instead of biking. I could have enjoyed the comfort of sitting on my butt, being taken up the big ass hill instead of focusing on breathing and not the burning in my thighs as I struggle to bike up it. I didn’t get a cold or a cough because I forced myself to bike in the cold windy Guelph weather. Yet, I continually reminded myself that “healthy people are active” and if my goal is to be a “healthy person” then I should be riding my bike. I associated this tiny little activity with the grand aspiration of calling myself a Healthy Person.

And so, I have been told, I am goal-oriented.

Slowly, slowly I am trying to learn how to focus on the present moment. To not necessarily focus less on “WILL THIS JOB DEFINE ME” or “WILL THIS MAKE ME THE MOST QUALIFIED EVER” and “WANT. TOP. MARKS”, but to actively incorporate and pay attention to the moments of “Well this is nice” and “mmmm” (four m’s, check it) into my life. To respect my body and my mind and all of their assorted needs, while simultaneously respecting my potential and my future aspirations. To truly believe that if I take the breaks I need, and stimulate the other areas of my brain or hands that thesis writing and computer typing leave wanting, it will enhance all areas of my life.

Thinking about this new ideology is liberating to think that maybe there is hope for me and fun to be had! I am allowed to enjoy the process. I want to enjoy the process. Imma enjoy this process!

This new ideology is also overwhelming because I know change does not come easily, and that I get easily frustrated when I face personal setbacks.

Thinking about this new ideology is even a bit isolating, because it makes me feel like I am working on a whole other full time job on top of my commitments to school. I know everybody has their own shit they are working on and dealing with, but my rational and emotional brain have never liked seeing eye to eye.

And so, I have been told, I can become process-oriented.

-M

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