Sunday, February 15, 2015

Process Orientation

In my recent readings including Ellen Langer's Mindfulness, I've come across the concept of process orientation a few times.  This seems to be one ingredient to sustainable happiness.

Most of us have a goal orientation in our perspectives and thoughts.  When I was a child, I would ask, “Why do I have to go to school?”  My parents would respond, “So you can graduate and get a job.”  But why do I need a job?  I need a job so that I can pay bills and support myself.  With this line of thinking, every action is done in order to achieve something else.  Nothing is done for its own merits.

Process orientation is training your mind to focus on the process at hand, rather than the goal it will achieve.  It's a perspective, or even a belief, that whatever action you are performing, the action has merit in itself.  The idea is to find meaning and joy in the performance rather than (or at least in addition to) the result.  Process orientation does not necessarily mean abandoning goals, but more a shift in focus.  It means placing more importance on an action than its outcome.  And failure, which is always defined by a goal, is interpreted as meritorious action, as part of a process, and as an opportunity for learning.

Process orientation acknowledges that there is no such thing as perfection.  It is an orientation towards learning, growth, and progress, instead of achievement, accomplishment, and success.

Process orientation is a meditation.  It is a practice of mindfulness, and it requires presence in the moment.  It is engagement in life. 

After learning about process orientation, I could see the benefits, but it seemed like a daunting task to train my mind in this new perspective.  So I kept the thought in back of my mind, but I didn't do a lot with it.

A few months later, I was having a conversation on an online dating site with a woman who told me it’s important that her partner have ambition.  I responded that I don’t aspire to wealth or prestige.  My ambitions are to be happy, to be educated, to be wise, to be a good friend, to live a life of integrity, and to have a positive impact on the world and people around me.  But these are not goals, and by extension maybe not ambitions.  Happiness, wisdom, and integrity have no final end points.  I’ll never say, “I can stop learning now, since I've already accomplished my goal of being educated.”

And I immediately realized that this is process orientation!  Already I've been making that shift in my mind.  It's not complete, but I find comfort and a sense of accomplishment that I am making progress.

Thank you for reading.  Use the comment tool to post any thoughts or questions.  And please share my blog with others who might find value in it.  May you be well and happy.

1 comment:

  1. This reminds me of a recent article which I enjoyed titled "A Verb for Nibanna". Also, viewing the 8-fold path as verbs rather than nouns.