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Focus on the Process, Not the Outcome

By Charlene Rayburn

green and blue pins in mapIn Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat (page 156), Michelle May, M.D. encourages us to “focus on the process, not the outcome” then offers many ways to do so throughout the book. I’ve learned to apply that wise counsel by tuning into my body’s wisdom at various times throughout the day. I’ve discovered that it has much to say about my health.

When I was following (or at least trying hard to follow) the advice of a diet program, I was always focused on my end goal—how much I wanted to weigh. That was the measurement of my success, the sole indicator of my health, and the distant mountaintop that I was striving to reach.

Now, I’m able to focus on how I feel today, right now, rather than how I hope to feel in some far-off future. Here are five areas where I have applied this concept, and you can too!

Focus on the Process of Mindful Movement

When exercising, I no longer “push through” in order to adhere to some prescribed routine that isn’t right for me. I take a moment to check in and choose an activity that will make me feel better, both during and after exercise, whether it’s walking, stretching, yoga, lifting light weights, or something new. I’m more aware of, and honor, my low-energy and high-energy days, and how my body responds to each activity. I now see it as a way to nurture myself in that moment, and then bask in the rewards. There is no more dread; I actually look forward to exercising each day. My body provides positive feedback and I simply feel better.

Focus on the Process of Mindful Eating

I’m also more aware and respectful of my hunger-fluctuation days. I am no longer a slave to strict eating schedules, meal plans, and portion sizes. For eating guidance, again, I check in with my body. It has repeatedly given me feedback (energy versus weakness) so I’m getting better at sensing how much protein and simple/complex carbohydrates I need for fuel until I eat again. Sometimes I need more protein, sometimes less. Sometimes I eat more often, sometimes less. And sometimes I eat larger portions, sometimes less. Paying attention to my body’s signals to determine what it needs right now is how I focus on the process, rather than a predefined plan or outcome.

Focus on the Process of Self-Care

I’m more aware of, and strive to honor, my body’s need for sleep, self-nurturing, stress management, and so on. With a busy schedule, it can be difficult to take time out for myself. But when I check in with my body, I have access to the information I need—drowsiness, a racing mind, high emotions, and other cues—to know that it’s time for a bit of self-care. Respecting my needs is another way to focus on the process.

Focus on the Process of Feeling Better

I also focus on the process by paying attention to how I feel today to assess my progress. I am no longer disappointed, guilty about cheating, afraid of failing, or feeling inadequate. Instead I ask, were those stairs a little easier to climb? Do I feel more agile? Am I able to hold that yoga posture a bit longer? Am I choosing more healthful foods? Am I handling stress a little better? If so, then I’m progressing in the right direction.

Focus on the Process of Making Choices

Since I started focusing on the process rather than the outcome, I am much more content with how my body looks and feels. I am also deriving enjoyment from choosing to do the things that support me to feel even better each day. I pay very little attention to how I think I should look and feel in the distant future (or even less helpful, how someone else thinks I should look and feel).

Thus, the guidance to “Focus on the process, not the outcome,” has not only added more joy to my overall health journey, it has added more joy to each and every day. Ironically, by focusing on the process, I’ve never been more pleased with the outcome!


About the author

Charlene Rayburn, CVCC, lives her passion for mindfulness and intentional leadership by serving as a personal and professional leadership coach, by managing a department of dedicated employees for a Fortune 500 sized health insurance organization, and by facilitating Am I Hungry?® workshops and coaching sessions. She has coached extensively with individuals and groups outside the corporate world, as well as with executives, leaders, and teams in non-profit, private, public, governmental, and educational organizations spanning the globe. Charlene received her coaching certificate through the Center for Coaching Mastery at Coachville, LLC, and earned a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree in Management from Davenport University. She is a member of the National Management Association. One of her most emotionally challenging and rewarding experiences was serving as a volunteer at the Center for Battered Women. Charlene currently lives in Michigan and enjoys spending time with her husband of over 20 years, reading, learning, cooking, practicing yoga, and watching her grandson grow, who lives with his dad, her stepson in Fort Worth, Texas.

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