Process and Product

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How do you find a seamless ebb and flow in your day or week?

As I watched the waves move in and out, the trails left by the outgoing waves fascinated me. Different every time, I kept thinking the pattern would reveal some new wisdom or insight to me.

I didn't really expect messages to be etched in the white froth, but I did find the image fitting for this quote by William James. Both James and the ocean remind us of the delicate balance between process and product. Our experiences and the information that we have gained in the process of living will give us a point of view or a "right answer" for that moment, but only that moment if we are growing and learning.

Focusing on just one or the other - process or product - will get us stuck and prevent growth. When we only look at results such as the winner of the sporting event, a person's SAT score, or quarterly sales numbers, we can miss learning valuable lessons that will improve performance next time. It could also cause us to form an incorrect opinion of someone's ability. If we get bogged down by the messy process of learning and creating, we can lose sight of where we want to go. Or we can get so frustrated that we give up on even getting there. I've been in both of these places.

How can we find a synergy between the two? Switching from a focus on process to product and back again smoothly like the ebb and flow of the ocean is what I aspire to work toward in my day to day. Some days I feel it working and other days I feel beat up by one wave after another without any ebb in between.

I've found that if I take a moment to pause, ask questions, and stay open to new information, I'm able to create that space or that ebb between waves. Here, I'm better able to practice more flexibility adjusting attention between process and product more effectively. In that space, I experience growth and discover new points of view.

Recently, I've started asking myself questions like "Is this what makes the most sense for me to work on right now?" This simple action has both prevented me from being too product/results focused such as getting sucked into responding to emails that don't really need immediate answering. But having an eye toward product has pushed me to play with a new creative idea in a way that has led to a new program offering or blog post. The idea doesn't disappear into oblivion because I spent too much time letting it "simmer" in the process. 

It has worked...when I actually remember to pause and ask the question. As with all growth though, it's a work in progress and my point of view on it will most likely change.

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