Regardless of what age a child is, one of the most important things he can be taught is that the key to success is in the process and not the outcome. As a society, we are so outcome-focused that we forget that the process of how one attains triumph is often more important and meaningful than the triumph itself. The value of process can’t be overstated enough. Isn’t it more important to know how to become a millionaire than actually being a millionaire?
Most schools do not focus on process. If they did, children would know how to approach tasks independently, especially writing, and they would know how to organize and plan, and these skills are lacking in most students today. MCAS tests and school ranking force schools to be outcome-focused, even though students need to be taught that process rules.
It is up to parents to teach their children — as young as age 2 onward — that process is where it’s at.
Here are seven key points to help parents emphasize process over outcome:
1. Embrace mistakes. Mistakes are often the biggest part of the learning process. When you focus only on outcome, you are less willing to experiment and therefore make mistakes. Taking risks often leads inadvertently to a better outcome than playing it safe.
2. Teach that success is a journey and not a destination. When you focus on the process, you are mindful and present and can more embrace hard work. You enjoy what you are learning as you become more skilled through hard work. You develop passion for the work itself and lose sight of the outcome, which will naturally fall into place in due time.
3. Process means less pressure. When you enjoy being in the moment, whether it be getting to know a potential new friend or getting better at a sport or craft, you care less about results. Caring too much about results leads to more pressure and distractions regarding performance. Lose yourself in the process, and you will learn skills and learn about yourself.
4. You have the control. When you focus on results, you’re not in total control because there will always be things working against you such as other people, time, etc. And when you feel that you have to deliver or something horrible will happen, that interferes with performance. Too much pressure on grades and not enough focus on the learning process will lead to cheating at worst and distraction from learning and enjoying education at best.
5. Over-focusing on the outcome is irrational. There are very few one-chance opportunities in life. To approach every test or game with pressure to achieve as if it’s the last chance to be successful is not realistic. Of course, you should always give 100% to anything you are committed to, and that means being fully present, not guaranteeing outcome. Failure is part of the process, and those who are dedicated will learn and get closer to the goal through the process.
6. Happiness comes from hard work. When things don’t turn out as expected, it’s still possible to feel positive after giving your best. Don’t allow happiness to be predicated on a certain outcome. No single outcome can make a person happy, not even becoming a billionaire. If you work hard and derive satisfaction from that, you feel fulfilled and happy with yourself.
7. Anxious people are especially challenged by uncertainty, and therefore, they often don’t feel comfortable with process because they just want the outcome to happen to end their uncertainty. Reframe uncertainty by telling children that hard work will always be rewarded in unexpected and expected ways.
As Abraham Lincoln said, “I will prepare and someday my chance will come.”
Dr. Kate Roberts is a licensed child and school psychologist and family therapist on the North Shore. Ask a question or make a comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.