Struggling? Trust the process.
I was wrestling with an issue in my life. One that I felt I should have worked out months ago. My constant thinking was exhausting me. My anxiety was underpinned by a deeply uncomfortable feeling in my gut.
I talked through my issues with a friend, for the umpteenth time. She uttered this piece of wisdom, “Sometimes, we need to trust the process”.
Technology has led us to believe we can find solutions to our problems in an instant. We can self diagnose, sell our car, or speak to a loved one anywhere in the world, at the touch of a button. From our comfy chair we can order food, read emails, catch up on social media and find our next partner. Instant gratification on tap.
Rewinding through history, those born in the 1950s saw how the impossible became reality when Armstrong and Aldrin stepped on the moon. The result was a belief that technology could make anything possible. The advances since have been staggering.
We have become spoilt. Supermarkets pander to our every taste. I’ll have a semi Latte Macchiato with cream on top please. But rather than choices making us happier, the field of positive psychology has shown us the opposite. Increasing options actually causes us stress. The more choices we have, the faster we can have them, the unhappier we become.
Why Can’t We Fix Ourselves?
With so much on offer to provide for our every need, is it really so surprising we get frustrated when things don’t go our way?
Why can’t we get the answer we want? Why can’t we fix ourselves? Why is it so difficult to change undesirable traits? Why can’t we boost our self-confidence overnight? Why do we struggle to make a relationship better? How do we gain certainty when we feel lost?
We look for the silver bullet. The quick and easy. Supplements. Gurus. Surely there is a quick fix to my problem?
We look for the silver bullet. The quick and easy.
This is where my friend’s wisdom plays out. Trust the process.
A friend of mine has been trying to become a competent swimmer for six months. He started in the small pool barely managing a single length. Many lessons, and a few months later, he managed four lengths. Frustration threatened to derail his efforts. Trust the process was the advice. He has adapted his swimming style and is now able to manage 25 lengths in a large pool. And still he perseveres.
Invariably worthwhile goals will take time and effort. Getting fit, becoming a better manager, growing a business, or being a better lover. We must put our frustration and impatience in the context of the immediate world we live in.
Here are three of the common problems that cause us to lose hope.
1) We hate how long it is taking
Anyone who has experienced grief will know its power. Just when we feel we have come to terms with devastating loss, something reminds us and we feel sucker punched. No matter how much we might think “I should be over this”, our insides tell us otherwise.
The same applies to any process of change. Why can’t I work out the solution to this problem now? Why do I need to wrestle with it? Why can’t I just decide and move on?
Why can’t I work out the solution to this problem now?
What if you can trust the process? What if the solution you require needs time?
Certain decisions can’t be rushed. Answers are not instantaneous. We need to think, explore, wrestle, sleep, rest, talk… much more than we’d like to.
Trusting the process is like cooking the perfect meal. No matter how hungry we are the wait will be worth it. Trust yourself. Trust the process.
2) We don’t like where the process seems to be taking us
Mary, a CEO of a company, started working with an executive coach. As they explored her values, she began to feel deeply uncomfortable. It dawned on her that were she to continue, she might have to make a difficult decision. She didn’t like the potential ramifications, and terminated the coaching.
Bob had difficulties in relating to his boss. The resulting stress caused him to need time off work. His doctor arranged some personal therapy. Within a few sessions it became obvious his boss reminded him of his abusive father. Not what Bob wanted to hear.
We may start down a particular path, only to realise some time later that it is taking you to a place you don’t want to go. A sense of anxiety creeps in. Where is this taking me? Where will it end? Is that where I want to go?
We may start down a particular path, only to realise some time later that it is taking you to a place you don’t want to go.
Mary the CEO returned six months later after realising her deep unhappiness was caused by a fundamental mismatch between her values, and that of her employer’s. Though she didn’t want to leave, she came to recognise that by staying she was doing herself harm. Twelve months later she much happier, and more effective. Why? She’d taken a job as CEO at a company matching her core values.
Bob worked through his anger, rage and guilt related to his father. It was painful, and took much longer than he would have liked. At times he wanted to quit. It was difficult. But he persevered. The result was that his personal background no longer derailed him at work.
We don’t have control over who we are. Our true selves, or our personality types/traits, remain constant. Psychology has repeatedly shown that when if we live at odds with who we really are, we are likely to experience mental health issues including depression, anxiety and long term stress.
Our true selves are aware of needed change (often subconsciously) but our (conscious) mind is slow to catch up.
By giving ourselves permission to trust the process we stop fighting with ourselves. We stop trying to make instant decisions when we are not ready. We allow ourselves to reflect over time, allowing us to tune into our true authentic selves. The results are more likely to be aligned to what our true needs are. And we will be much the happier for it.
3) We feel we should be over this now
The very thought “I should” causes stress. I should be over this by now. Add “I need”, “I ought”, and “I must” statements. Typically called “musterbations” they cause much harm to our wellbeing.
Musterbations are caused by our upbringing and culture. They tell us what is right or wrong. I ‘should’ not be struggling with this. I ‘should’ be better than this. I ‘should’ get grade As. I ‘must’ be successful. I ‘ought’ to help the neighbour. I ‘need’ to get ahead.
There is nothing inherently wrong with these statements, but if they run counter to our needs we deny our true selves.
If we need some time to on our own to recuperate, but feel we ‘ought’ to give to others, we end up burning ourselves out.
If the need to be successful comes at the expense of personal health and relationships – the cost is obvious and runs counter to our true selves.
Musterbations are the enemy of personal change or development. They hold us to a standard not congruent to ourselves. We end up feeing guilty, frustrated and annoyed.
Musterbations cause us to end up feeing guilty, frustrated and annoyed.
Ban them. Don’t use them in our speech or thinking. Allow ourselves to trust the process.
A process is a series of steps, which take time. We are trying to come to grips with what it means for us. We need time to assess the impact, to work out what our true selves want. When the thought “I should be over this now” makes an appearance, recognise it for what it is, and give yourself permission to trust yourself and the process.
Summary – trust the process!
There are things we can’t rush. We might want a baby to be born today, but we have to wait 9 months. The caterpillar needs to enter a long chrysalis phase before emerging as a beautiful butterfly.
Like me, when you find yourself struggling with a decision, or a process of change, give yourself time. Trust yourself. The results may not be what you expect, but in time and with hindsight you’ll see it was worth it.
Please give me feedback if you enjoyed this article, or feel I’ve missed something.