Photo Credit: Megan Soule,
Photo Credit: Megan Soule,

Results Mindset

In high school I was a straight-A student. It wasn’t as much as something I was aiming for as it was part of my identity.

I grew up in an incredibly type-A atmosphere. The kind of culture that encourages kids to start writing their college application essays their freshman year. I like to call this “domino” culture: where events have to happen in an exact succession in order to lead to the end goal. Getting the best grades so you can get into an ivy league school so you can get a top tier job so you can make a lot of money.

It’s the kind of mindset that robs you of enjoyment all along the way because as soon as something’s accomplished, you move on to working on the next thing. Forever chasing the carrot.

I was the essence of this mindset, boiled down into an anxious 16-year-old.

One day we were receiving back essays we’d written for our English class. I received a B on the essay. So after class I waited until everyone left and I approached my teacher. She was an older, no-nonsense type of woman who’d clearly been around the block several hundred times. She scared me a bit, but I was resolved to get the grade I wanted. I approached her and said, “Ms. Harlowe I got a B on the last essay and I wanted to ask you what you need from me in order to get an A on the next one.” I thought that was very mature of me. She didn’t.

I spent the entire lunch period listening to different variations of, “how dare you disrespect the class by asking about the grade,” “it’s about the journey,” and, “it’s about being a better writer.” The whole time in my head I was thinking: “Jeez, what does this woman want from me? I thought I was being so adult about this…”

It took me until I was working with my own clients to see what she was talking about.

It’s not all about flowers, rainbows, and focusing on the journey– results matter.

However, the way you achieve those results is by focusing on the journey.

Ms. Harlowe was mad because I was only asking her how I could get what I wanted. All she heard was, “Ms. Harlowe what do you need me to write on this piece of paper for you to spit out an A?” If I’d asked instead, “How can I be a better writer?” she would’ve been happy to keep me for the day and help me to achieve that goal (and odds are I would’ve gotten an A on the next paper anyways).

I believe in process-setting, rather than goal-setting, because if you shift your perception towards mastering the process, the results come naturally as a result. Want to become a better basketball player? Focus on your mechanics.

Of course the end results matter. Of course you should care about that. However, the only way to ensure you reach the destination is to master the journey itself. If you focus on walking the right path, you’ll naturally get to where you need to go.