In my studio, photo by Jessica Libor
Recently I heard a gem of knowledge that really struck me: “The process is the goal.”
This concept can apply to any aspect of your life. In health, fitness, career, family, relationships, friendships, social life, spiritual life, or anything else you aspire to in your life. Think about those people you know or know of who have one or more of these aspects on point in a spectacular way. Perhaps they have the career you’ve always dreamed of–making amazing art, and getting recognition for it. Perhaps they travel around the world and have a life of adventure that you’d love to experience. Maybe their fitness levels seem to be unstoppable.
Whatever it is that you admire about this person, what “The process is the goal” reminds us of is that no one is perfect. It is impossible to be in a state of perfection in anything, because as wonderful, flawed, quirky humans living in an imperfect world, perfection is not possible. However, showing up everyday, working at it, and sharing your gift with the world, is very possible.
The athlete with the body in wonderful condition only got there by regular, hard work, grinding out each workout even when they didn’t feel like it. Yes, sometimes a workout will feel exhilarating and fun, but other times it will be the last thing this athlete wants to do. However, the act of going through the actions of the workout is what will change their body. This doesn’t happen overnight, either: it’s a constant process of small choices that add up: choosing fruit instead of ice cream, choosing to get up and go to the gym at 7:30 instead of sleeping in until 8:30. These small choices are indeed small–and one slipup really wouldn’t matter. However, these everyday choices add up to create a very different body to live in than if that athlete had chosen a different path. And even when the world sees the result, the athlete knows that it is not a state of perfection she is working for, it is health and performance on a spectrum, and any success she meets has to be maintained by continual training and effort. As soon as a goal is reached, a plateau is also reached. While it’s fine to catch your breath, the athlete knows that she must maintain her health in order to keep her current level, and push even harder than before should she wish to go further. In this way, the process is the goal.
The same is true in an artist’s life. We live in an instant-gratification world today. Companies cater to our desires to have everything we want, and now. It is a consumer mindset to think that we can buy success, health, skills, meaning, or love. These things must be cultivated, understood and approached with a process-oriented mindset. The goal can be switched from “having a sold out international art show” to “create one new piece per week in the studio that I am proud of”. Can you see how one goal is externally focused on what one can get, and the other is more internally focused on what you can do and give? This kind of process oriented thinking also puts the power back in your hands. You are no longer seeking the approval of a gallery (outside source) but instead have the power to create a quality gift to the world. Which, as anyone instinctively knows, is the key to success: adding value to the world. If you create one piece of quality work per week, then, you will eventually be in a position to choose who to work with and what opportunities to take, because you are secure in your contribution. You will have something you know is truly valuable. There is no short cut here–to be a sought after artist with quality, enthusiastic buyers, you must become the kind of artist who puts in the work to create something of value–and people will notice. It is not a pinnacle achievement, where one day you wake up and think “I have made it!” Although great moments will come when you realize that your dreams are becoming a reality, that will be because of the process that you’ve followed to get there.
So I would challenge you to think of and list out the ideals you’d like to realize in your life. Whether it is artistically related, or any other area of your life, think of where you’d like to be, and then the process that needs to happen in order for that to happen. Then, instead of focusing on the goal so much (which can be disheartening, if it seems far away) then focus on the process. What would someone who is successful in that area of their life be, do, and act like? Seek help, workshops, or other forms of training if need be, to help you realize the best process. Then, dedicate yourself to the process–not the goal. You’ll find that the external goal will sneak up on you when you least expect it, when you’re deeply involved with the process–after it’s become a habit.
This assures as well that your goal doesn’t blind you from other opportunities. Focusing on the process helps you to be more open to opportunities that may be even better for you than your original goal, that are along the same career path. As Clive Gillison writes in the book Better to Speak of It, by Robert Rimm and Clive Gillison: “It’s a natural thing to be scared of uncertainty, yet liberating to know that it’s perfectly alright to feel that way. When I was younger I wanted the same thing—certainty–and it took me a long time to realize that uncertainty can be a strength rather than weakness, because uncertainty also brings with it endless possibilities.”
It’s all about the process. As Henry David Thoreau said,
If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
Thanks so much for reading! What kind of processes would you like to implement in your life and career? Leave a comment below to share! Until next time, stay creative,
ps–If you’d like a step be step guide to help you discover your own voice as an artist, I’ve put together a completely free course for you! Click here to learn more.