When we’re too busy worrying about something going wrong we can’t imagine it might go right and much less enjoy the process of finding out. If success happens, we chalk it down to a fluke and our self-confidence misses out on a rare opportunity for validation and growth. we believed you might be able to do it so we tried and we succeeded; the number of tries or the time it took isn’t as important as the end results.
Then again, too much optimism and we could end up conflating beginner’s luck with the magic touch and begin to feel entitled to success. So we stop experimenting or producing our best work, we coast along until your luck runs out and then we wonder where it went.
Allowing ourself a little pat on the back and a jovial “Well done!” even when results remain modest is key to measuring progress. If we treat progress as a happy accident, we cannot acknowledge the resilience it took to get to where we’re at.
And we certainly can’t tap into it for motivation as we continue to move forward, whatever it takes. So why not chill, enjoy the ride even if we’re taking the scenic route to wherever we’re going. We’ll be dead a long time.
Have you ever been so keen to ship something you took as many shortcuts as you could find and cut all the corners, furnishing the least possible effort? It was acceptable but only just, we showed up but we probably loathed or at least resented every minute of it. And it showed, and it was communicative, and it very likely didn’t serve us or anyone who relied on us to make a valuable contribution.
Bothering to pay attention to detail and taking the time to get as many of them as possible right would have at least showed we cared. Instead, the zero fucks is label is tough to unstick once it attaches itself to our mindset and informs how we approach every situation.
If detachment from the outcome allows us to focus on the process, detachment from the process makes it clear we’re not really here. Mentally, we’ve already skipped ahead to the next step; we’ve either arrived or we’ve stopped short of quitting by not trying anymore.
How about disrupting the process until we find purpose in our work again even if that means doing wild new things that scare us? When we were kids, trying was fun so why shouldn’t it be again? Find your inner child again.
The promotion, the pay increase, the bylines, the degree, the certification, the book deal, the weight loss, the winning lottery ticket, the partner. The appearance of success matters greatly to us. Some of us will go to any length to market the appearance of success instead of focusing on the work it takes. We pretend we’re already there as a way of making it happen.
Do you also think the right magic spell can turn eggs, flour, milk, and baking powder into a perfect fluffy pancake without at least mixing the batter? Are you the Harry Potter of awkward, lonely creators not completely at ease in the skin they’re in? “Reducto Mediocritus!” and suddenly our work life is the epitome of optimization?
Is it at this point that I, mild-mannered bookworm without television or extensive knowledge of pop culture, ask whether you even lift, bro? Or whatever replaced bro at the top of the hipster snark hit parade that has us communicating in incomprehensible gibberish known as self-help.
Not to pan the genre but the clue has always been in the name. Help yourself by doing something instead of expecting others to swoop in and magic away your woes with the perfect incantation.
So what if the process was the outcome and the rewards instead? Would that prospect be enough to offset the possibility of disaster, real though it may be?
Life is a crapshoot and we’ve been writing the instruction manual for the last 2,000 years so no, not even inaction insulates us from failure. To be human is to be fallible, to make mistakes, to have love and fear manhandle our hearts and minds, to embrace the path of least resistance sometimes.
Because we can’t care about all the things, we aren’t machines. But we can care about what is within our remit, what we can control, change, redesign, or redefine so we do not just something but our best.
Without committing to learning from our failures, we humans won’t last the distance, we will never last the distance.
Stay in the moment and get it right as right as you can so you can move on to the next one; optimism means giving life the benefit of the doubt.
Instead of reflexively fearing the unknown, we’re giving it a chance.
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor now based in the Netherlands. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.