Focus on the process not outcome for success

Former Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew

Former Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew on April 27, 2011. FILE | AFP

Speaking during his last National Day Rally, Lee Kuan Yew (1923-2015), the first prime minister of Singapore, “The first job of a government is to equalise opportunities, not to equalise results. If you equalise results, you are done for. You end up with what Deng Xiao Ping calls “the iron rice bowl.” Nobody works, everybody does their minimum, very little rice in the bowl.”

That is what made the difference and today Singapore is a thriving first-world nation.

When we think we are ready to accomplish something, we long for that immediate gratification and often set goals with the endgame in mind, expecting the change to happen overnight.

Many of our most precious goals do not happen quickly enough. They require hard work and persistence. Periods of change can be extremely painful and frustrating.

It has been said that ordinary people focus on the outcome, but successful people focus on the process and that is how they achieve such enormous goals.

Joe Frazier, the Heavyweight World Champion once said, “Champions aren’t made in the ring, they are merely recognised there.” Anyone who relies on luck, talent, or prestige doesn’t understand this lesson and will suffer for it. True champions focus on the process, doing the work every day, becoming stronger, faster, more focused, and more skilled.

Ernest Hemingway, the famous American writer, once said, “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow men. True nobility lies in being superior to your former self.”

When you focus on the outcome, you miss the opportunity to immerse yourself in the process, studying your craft, honing your skills, and perfecting your form. If all you want is to beat the other guy, you unleash only a fraction of your abilities.

When I started writing eight years ago, I was excited about the number of reviews and comments from readers, but they were far less than other more established writers were getting. I was fixated on increasing the number of hits for my articles, in other words, the outcome, and this became frustrating when I did not achieve my target.

My focus was on the outcome, and I was jealously looking at other writers and their followers. But when I started focusing on the process, I stopped looking at my pageviews and just wrote, studying top-tier writers, becoming a student of my craft and a fanatical learner.

As you change your attention from the outcome to the process you learn faster and become more successful and happier with the outcome. You have no control over the outcome, but you can influence it by managing the process.

Our human nature finds it easier to focus on the outcome. It is familiar, it is on everybody’s lips. We find it hard to ignore the competition, to keep our nerves, and to stare in the face of failure as we work on ourselves.

As long as your focus is on the outcome you will continue to waste precious energy on matters you can not control, falling short of your dreams, and being too exhausted trying to look better than the other guy. But when you choose to focus on the process, your attitude, actions, and mindset shift to the things you can control.

That is what will set you apart from being ordinary to extraordinary.

Returning to Lee Kuan Yew, he ended his speech with the words, “Your future depends on what you make of it. The government can give you that framework and can give expression to the will of the people, but the people must have that will. If you don’t have it, there is nothing a government can do.”

We now have a new government in Kenya that, in its manifesto, has pledged to give us that very framework of equalised opportunities but if we as citizens do not express our will by participating positively in the process, then in the words of Lee Kuan Yew, we are done for!

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