Career Advice: Focus On The Process, Not The Results

Career Advice: Focus On The Process, Not The Results

When we talk about jobs, it seems we always cover the same ground: the pay, the benefits, the title, the perks, and so on. The conversation starts and ends with the things.

The problem is, these things don’t mean anything if you’re not happy with the work itself. The process of work is far more important than the results. This is one thing I’ve finally figured out.

One reason you may hate your job is because of this exact reason. You think a higher salary and better benefits matter, but when the day-to-day grind eats away at your soul, it’s a moot point.

Similar problems are found when working for yourself. If you’re in it for the fame and glory and awards and attention, the outcome is no better. Such moments are fleeting and in the long run inconsequential. When you look at work from a birds-eye-view, it’s clear that about 99% of the time you’re grinding.

Whether you’re a writer or programmer or project manager or freelancer or doctor. Work is repetitive and taxing and looks pretty boring, as long as it’s not on TV. Yet, if you enjoy that day-to-day process, the daily grind of what your work requires, you’re already setup for success.

We work in the dark-we do what we can-we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.Henry James from The Middle Years

The point is not to focus on the outcomes of your work, but the process itself.  The hard work that no one sees. The countless hours spent thinking about problems and how to solve them. The days when you feel like crap, but still get up for work because it means something to you beyond a paycheck.

It’s not for the rewards or fame or success or limelight. Not for those moments of elation. Those are great, there’s no arguing that, but they’re not the point. They’re not the reason you do what you do. After all, they’re not guaranteed.

You do what you do because you find joy in the actual process, whether success finds you or not.

Since I’ve quit my job, I’ve re-evaluated my life regularly and how I’m spending my time. Each time I try to see if I’m on the right path, doing the things I enjoy, and making the most of my opportunity. Quite fortunately, I find that I am.

I can do better, work harder, no doubt, but I’m finally working towards things that satisfy me on every level. I write, I design, and I create with full autonomy and freedom. I’m lucky.

How can you find this for yourself? It’s easier said than done, but just asking yourself a few simple questions will get you on the right path. It starts with looking at your current state.

1. Are you happy with your work?

Not from a monetary perspective, not from a comfort perspective, but do you actually like what you do on a regular basis? There’s going to parts of any job or career that suck, that just comes with the territory, but the majority of the time should be spent doing things that fulfill you.

Money is important and sometimes it trumps everything else, but other times it’s just noise keeping you from what you really want. If you hate your work, if you’re not internally satisfied, then none of the material benefits are going to make you feel any better.

So be honest with yourself, do you truly enjoy what you do? If the answer is no, move on to the next question.

2. What do you spend your free time on?

I’m not going to use a word as cliche as passion, but what are the things you enjoy? What are your hobbies? What do you spend your free time on? Or my favorite, what do you procrastinate with when you should be doing work?

The answers to these questions often point us towards the things we should be working on. The things we will truly enjoy doing if we pursue them. More often than not, they’re right in your face, but you never considered them an option.

Take a hard look at what you really enjoy doing.

3. How can I take one step forward?

When you find that thing, and you will eventually, you need to plan how to move things forward. Quitting your job outright is not the answer. You need to figure things out before you take a leap.

Instead of diving in head first, ask yourself how you can take a small step towards the life you want to lead. If you want to write, start blogging. If you want to design, start taking on freelance work when you can. If you want to be a musician, go to open mic nights. Taking this approach will result in two things.

First, it’ll will prove if you truly want what you say you do. Far too often we say we want to pursue something, but we don’t take any action. If you can’t take this small step towards your supposed goal, then maybe it’s not as important as you thought. After all, actions speak louder than words.

Second, if you do take that step, you start to see how this new path could actually take hold. After a few weeks or months, you can take another step forward, until you reach your final destination. It takes time, but if you want it, it’s there.

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.Steve Jobs

It’s about doing great work and loving what you do. It’s not about being successful or winning awards or making money. Those may come along, but they aren’t the be all end all.

The point is that process beats results. If you’re not happy with the grind, the the results aren’t going to make things any better.

Focus on the work that you do and the rest will come.