Every once in a while, I say something that actually sounds somewhat intelligent. I don’t know how it happens; it just does.
A friend of mine is a runner (like actually runs long distances, half marathons and all that jazz). I made a comment about not making very fast progress, which I’ve discussed before. She replied that she’s been at it since 2011 and still isn’t satisfied with where she was at.
I understand that. I’ve never been happy with where I was at. No competitive person is, so I responded with this:
Originally, that last sentence wasn’t going to be there. My initial thoughts were summed up in the first two sentences, but I had that “well, that’s depressing” thought. And I knew this wasn’t the full extent of my beliefs. Satisfaction is wonderful. The person who is at peace with their place in the universe is much better off than the person who is constantly unhappy with their situation.
That last sentence takes the competitive tinge out a bit and instead focuses on growth. And this is closer to my true beliefs. No matter what, I want to get better. Even if I achieve everything I want in one aspect of my life, there will always be somewhere else for me to grow. Even if I could run a marathon (never happening, by the way; just an example), I wouldn’t be satisfied with something that is a pretty awesome achievement. I would instead turn my attention to finishing within a certain timeframe. I might change race distances. I would do something so I could keep growing. The process means growth has to occur.
Of course, I realized what I had said was actually somewhat useful as something to carry around with me, so it had to make its way into this blog post. And if I ever become a motivational speaker, this will be my fallback line.
And now, the rest of the story
Being satisfied with progress is different than being satisfied with the process. Honestly, being satisfied with progress is something I see more as happiness (i.e., I’ve got what I want) and being satisfied with the process is something I see as true satisfaction (i.e., I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing).
An article by the Atlantic covers the difference between happiness and meaning fairly well, though I sub in satisfaction for meaning, fairly well. I really recommend reading the article, but in case you just want a synopsis: Happiness can be viewed as selfish (e.g., happy people tend to take from others more than they give). Meaning on the other hand stemmed more from selflessness (e.g., meaning was derived from things like charitable acts or other service). Meaning often comes at the expense of happiness, but it gives us something more permanent and more worthwhile to attain.
As I said, I use satisfaction as a synonym for meaning, at least true satisfaction. The difference between satisfaction and happiness is the difference between eating healthy food and eating junk food. Junk food tastes better and feels like the better option in the short term, but healthy food, despite not having the immediate gratification, pays off in the long run. You sacrifice the easy choice so that you can have something worthwhile.
This has been a common theme for this blog.
When we look at satisfaction with progress versus satisfaction with the process, we’re seeing happiness versus satisfaction.
A person satisfied with their progress is happy and takes a day off. A person satisfied with the process has meaning and they come back for more the next day.
Satisfaction with progress doesn’t gel with my makeup. I’m a hypercompetitive person. If you’re familiar with StrenghtsFinder, you could take a guess that my highest strength is Competition.
I want to be the best, but more importantly, I want to get better. I truly believe when we stop growing is when we start dying. I fear the day I don’t learn at least some new piece of information.
Growth is something I value, and growth is a process.
I’m not a believer in fate. I don’t believe things work out the way they’re supposed to. I believe people make decisions. I believe people can make good and bad decisions. I believe if we keep making the right decisions and we keep doing what we’re supposed to do, success will eventually occur, even in the face of monumental failures (and believe me, I’ve failed spectacularly many times).
My biggest successes have been results of perseverance. I’ve been absolutely floundering (i.e., hating my progress), and then things finally took a turn for the better (i.e., believing in the process). From the outside, it looks like things just clicked. It looks magical, like I just happened to find the rhythm of the universe.
But much like the flywheel concept from Good to Great, all my successes were works in progress long before anyone paid attention. It was the process all along, even when the progress wasn’t bearing fruit just yet.
So what is this process? It’s not a secret. Never has been. We generally know what we’re supposed to be doing. But like Ben Harper says, “it’s so hard to do and so easy to say.”
For me, the 5Ks are just a part of the process. They’re not a real goal. They’re an objective. They’re just another part of the process. There are many other parts. Maintaining a good work/life balance, eating better, getting enough sleep, going to yoga, etc.
It’s a lot of little things that hopefully keep me going in the right direction. Hell, this blog is a part of the process. It keeps friends in touch with what I’m doing (as well as some strangers who evidently think this could be worth reading), and it keeps me mentally engaged in a physically exhausting journey.
Believe me, it’s a lot easier to sit around watching TV and eating pizza than it is to put in 3-4 miles.
But I keep going because even though I’m not satisfied with my progress, I am satisfied with the process.