Making Peace with Process (or Why Instant Gratification Is Overrated)

by Belinda Munoz on September 20, 2010

long and winding road

There are some words that snuff out the sizzle in my days.  Words that frazzle rather than dazzle and nearly put my easily stimulated sensibility to a lulling flatline.  Deflating the light bounce in my step.  Defacing my pulchritudinous vision of a perfect dream.

One such word for me is process.  It’s not an exciting word, is it?  Who wants to be told they’re eating processed food?  Who wants to hear that their official paperwork of any kind is still in process?  And who lights up and finds their aura all aglow when some guru or expert tells them any suffering they’re experiencing is all part of the process?

Not I.

But I’m a grown human and my world has orbited the sun a few times.  These days, I invest a lot of energy trying to be a good example to my child; honing in on the lessons I could pass down to him.  I can suck it up about this process bit because I’ve learned that there is a need for it in just about everything I want to accomplish.  If I want to make sure my family eats healthy, there are the processes of grocery shopping, meal planning and actual cooking involved that I simply can’t skip, tempting as it may be (boiled lettuce, anyone?).  If I want to raise my son to be a fine man, there is the process of  parenting, sometimes a veritable roller coaster ride, that I must do unrelentingly.  If I want to call myself a writer, I have to pay my dues and write pages and pages for hours and hours, again and again.  (Does the boring nature of this last sentence make my point about how dull this word seems to me?)

A dream, no matter how big or small, requires a process to become real.  It often involves mundane tasks (i.e. repetition, trial and error, following directions, etc.) and requires the maturity of, well, a grownup.  Someone who is willing to embrace the fantastic and the prosaic rolled into one.

Along the way, somehow, I learned that instant gratification rarely happens in non-fairly tale existence.  The things I have that I’m most proud of didn’t land on my lap instantaneously.  How have I come to terms with the processes of life?

Exercise those decision-making muscles. We have choices.  We have choices even in times when we think we don’t.  Even those who are physically imprisoned have a choice to free their minds and spirits.  If we face this beautiful gift of choice head on, we can actively participate, give and get more out of the processes of life.

Make a commitment. Once we’ve made a choice, commitment is the force that fuels our path through any process.  Mandela and Gandhi come to mind among those whose leadership is a shining example of steadfast commitment.  Their processes got complicated, no doubt, each having served time in jail.  Still, they remained true to their causes.

Embrace. This process thing?  Drab as I make it sound, holds some hidden surprises.  Think back to the people you’ve enjoyed knowing whom you might not have met; identify the skills you’ve mastered that you might not have learned; recall the good times you might not have had, had you not traversed a certain path.  You could sneer and discount the value or meaning of these things under the guise of focusing on a larger, shinier destination.  Or you could embrace and acknowledge how much these things have enhanced your being while continuing on with the process toward a certain goal.  I choose the latter.

Relish and revel. Each life path is personal.  We could choose to hold on to a dark cloud, whatever it may be, and sulk our way through it.  Or, we could dance and sing and share belly laughs with whomever we cross paths.  We each hold the key to how enjoyable we make any process, whether or not we feel it.

Keep a gentle hold on the desired outcome. The destination often acts as a ballast that holds us steady.  It requires commitment which, I believe, each of us is capable.  However, gripping the desired outcome too tightly stops the blood flow – – it constricts the lifeline through which the banal and the soulful connect.  Loosening the grip makes room for a less rigid and much more organic process, resulting in more instead of less satisfaction.

Every process is different.  Most can be tedious, unexciting and garner little to no applause, even after a significant time and energy investment.  But making peace with process?  Totally worth it.  After all, diamonds are dug from the deep, dark dirt.

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  • What wisdom have you gleaned from any process?
  • Imagine this:  having everything you could possibly want granted to you instantly versus working toward something.  Which one would be more fun?
  • If you could have one thing now that is within the realm of possibility, what would it be?  Realistically, how would you obtain it?

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Image by mangloard

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After Dark Comes Light — the halfway point
September 22, 2010 at 12:38 am

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Molly@Postcards from a Peaceful Divorce September 20, 2010 at 3:11 am

You’re right about the word process and words are so important. What about path? I like the idea that life is a step at a time, and I love your photo, which is a path.

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2 Kate September 20, 2010 at 6:14 am

Hello Belinda,
I think relish and revel is my top one…..I never really thought about the word before but it is a little dismal isn’t it?!
Although looking at your questions, I am trying to reframe it in a more positive light – I think all wisdom is gleaned through processes (even if we do not realise it at the time).
A little bit of me thinks it would be great to be granted everything instantly….but I would miss out on so much, I don’t think it would be worth it.
Very thought provoking and I’ll agree with Molly about the pic – it is stunning.

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3 The Exception September 20, 2010 at 8:20 am

I am a path person – a process person I suppose. It is all about the journey and not really about the goal or what lies at the end – so I wouldn’t like everything handed to me.

That said, I think we might use process in different ways. I am jaded about the word “process” because it is used, in my life, in a limited way. It doesn’t necessarily reflect the freedom of dreams or passions or consider choices that reflect the integrity of the people involved or the choice to make changes. “Process” is about rules – the black and white – the fixed – respecting a framework that is about a situation and not about people. It is cold and without heart.

I suppose it is all about how we have experienced things in the past. I prefer path or journey or method – I prefer a word that is more reflective of the fluidity of life and the choices and the heart over the cold, clinical, black and white – process.

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4 TheKitchenWitch September 20, 2010 at 8:21 am

It’s the last point I struggle with–to keep a gentle hold on the outcome. I need WORK in that area. Thought-provoking, as always.

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5 rob white September 20, 2010 at 9:03 am

Well said, Belinda. Instant gratification is a myth. Anything worthwhile doing will see some struggles and bumps in the process. Getting from where we are now to where we are going requires taking on new beliefs about ourselves. Changing our beliefs is simple but it is not supposed to be easy. The satisfaction comes with knowing we overcame a great challenge.

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6 Cathy September 20, 2010 at 9:33 am

Related to your last point, I think the beauty of process is knowing the outcome, at least minimally. Setting expectations through process is beneficial. And, I believe we ALL have choices and those that feel that they don’t have shut themselves off to endless possibilities.

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7 BigLittleWolf September 20, 2010 at 9:40 am

I’ve actually never needed to make peace with process – it’s something I’ve always loved.

“Process” has always felt synonymous with “journey” to me – which means it’s open, creative, interpretive, and necessary. As you say, each process (even those that are repetitive) is unique.

Make peace with process? I say – celebrate it. (Perhaps this is one of the reasons I’ve always enjoyed work that requires examination of an organization’s processes to make things run more efficiently?)

Intriguing post.

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8 Nadia Ballas-Ruta ~ Happy Lotus Lifestyles September 20, 2010 at 9:41 am

Hi Belinda,

I love how everything in life is a process. I have come to notice that we have numerous cycles that occur within one lifetime. I recently completed one that lasted thirteen years and it is an interesting place to be at.

One cycle has come to an end and I am now at the beginning of a new one. Life is an adventure and there is so much to learn and do. Change is truly beautiful and stagnation is death. So I welcome the process of life with open arms.

I think we are the creators of our experience…so we have to create wisely and that begins with the choices we make. And I think our attitude impacts our experience.

Thank you so much for always writing from your heart…I just love it!

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9 Jenny Ann Fraser September 20, 2010 at 9:59 am

Hi Belinda,
What an amazing, though-provoking post. This idea of process seems to be a theme in my life this week!
I think that I have definitely gleamed much more wisdom from processes than end-goals. I am now finally becoming aware enough to be working at focusing on the process as opposed to just the end goal. I find this much more rewarding and also enhances my whole experience and allows for greater opportunity to grow.
I definitely find that instant-gratification is far less rewarding.
Thank you for leading me to think about it!

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10 Nicki September 20, 2010 at 12:40 pm

I am with BLW on this one. Process = Journey

I am always up for a journey. I especially like those that I do not know the ending of. I like heading out and seeing what comes up and when – whether that is my paperwork that is still in process or a goal that is in process.

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11 Patty - Why Not Start Now? September 20, 2010 at 12:52 pm

Hi Belinda – This is fascinating to me, because I would have pegged you for a process person. That might be because I love process, love the word, love everything about it. And you know, the old ego wants to believe everyone is just like me! But anyway, I think life is process, and time and again in my own life, and in my work with other people, when we finally arrive at the destination or goal or achievement or whatever you want to call it, there’s often a certain emptiness inside, a certain, “Now what?” or “Is this all there is?” Pretty common for human beings to experience that. And then society says we better find another goal to reach for. Process, however, is more of a land where being and becoming are linked together. I’m not saying we shouldn’t strive for things, but I especially like what you say about keeping a gentle hold on the desired outcome.

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12 Sara Healy September 20, 2010 at 2:34 pm

Belinda — I always like the topics you choose. They are unusual. I had not really thought about “process” being a topic, but you did an excellent job of making me thoroughly enjoy reading about “process.”

To answer your questions:

1)Wisdom gleaned: Patience goes hand and hand with process.
2) Of course, I’d choose working for it because I really appreciate things more when I’ve been challenged.
3) A photography show using my photos and quotes or (and this is a scary one for me) working with a group of people, possibly children, who make up stories about photos.

I used to do something like the last thing I mentioned when I was a kid in school. We would listen to music and draw how it made us feel. I always hated it when we had to listen to anything by Beethoven…because my drawing would look crazy since Beethoven’s music tends to fire and brimstone melding in sweet calm streams….:~)

Wonderful post and very interesting questions…thank you, Belinda:~)

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13 Belinda Munoz September 20, 2010 at 3:11 pm

Sara, thank you! I always love how truly engaged you are in the topic when you share your thoughts here. Lucky me!

And I LOVE your response to the third question. Both sound perfect for you! This reminds me of that beautiful photo you framed with that wonderful quote at the bottom. You have so many beautiful photographs already so I know you’re not lacking in great material.

And I’m in love with the idea of little kids making up stories based on your pictures! They’re so unafraid of the imaginary world and are so uninhibited with their creativity. Oh what fun just thinking about the stories they’d come up with!

As for Beethoven, what a beautiful description of his music. Husband and I were at a friend’s birthday party last night and there was a string quartet that performed Mozart, Glasnov and ending with Beethoven. It was interesting to hear these composers and their out-of-this-world music in that order because Beethoven’s work sounded so much more rhythmic and fiery.

One last thing: I thought you’d appreciate hearing that my husband works with a Russian painter and a dance troupe doing something similar to the drawing you did as a child. Husband plays earthy rhythms on a marimbata, the painter paints a picture, and the dancers react to the rhythm. It’s a very organic process with each artist reacting to how they’re moved by the other. It’s one instance where the word process doesn’t sound so boring, to me at least.

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14 Tony Single September 20, 2010 at 5:59 pm

Now see, as a stunted human being, I much prefer instant gratification to process any day. In fact, I want it RIGHT NOW. Okay. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting…

I guess waiting could be considered a process, right? 😛

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15 Preeti @ Heart and Mind September 20, 2010 at 9:38 pm

Belinda,

Life in slow lane always better in most cases, where is actual process of doing something or processed food, traditional and slow way works for me. Instant gratification may seem cool, but it fizzles out as quickly.

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16 Lauren September 21, 2010 at 1:03 pm

Dear Belinda,

I love process. It’s interesting that in psychology there’s a distinction between content and process. An example is content is the words being said, process is what’s happening underneath.

Process is where all the “meaty” stuff is, all the shadow, light, the potential for transformation. It’s what’s brewing, as yet unbirthed. It’s the stuff life’s made of.

In the context of instant gratification, they’ve done interesting studies of children and whether they go for instant gratification or can sometimes withhold gratification for a future “payoff”. Unsurprisingly, most “inmates” go for instant gratification.

As you wisely point out, sometimes the best gifts take time to cultivate. My perspective is that in the living of our lives we are in perpetual process – and it is marvelous!

Thanks for a great post!

Hugs,
Lauren

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17 Elana September 21, 2010 at 1:06 pm

Belinda, thank you for coming over to the blog and hanging out. I loved hearing from you! You’re welcome any time….Process. I’m with you in that the actual word is lame-o and rings of psych buzzwordiness. I’m gonna make it short but here’s my take on process:

It is ALL about the process.

Mucho afecto! E

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18 Tess The Bold Life September 21, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Belinda,
I’m tired of the word process. I think I over used it as a psychologist!

I love, love, love these two words. Relish and revel.

I’m writing them down as an affirmation on an index card.

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19 Leslie September 21, 2010 at 8:06 pm

Oh, boy. I need to print this out and tape it to the fridge (or, heck, every finished wall in the house!). Our home has been our process for the past few years, and though I constantly remind myself to embrace the commitment, the reveling, and the ultimate goal, it’s hard to keep embracing it! Sometimes the hold is a desperate, slipping grip hold – but I haven’t let go yet. Thanks for the encouragement here!

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20 Jingle September 22, 2010 at 12:35 pm

the image is breath taking!
wow.

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21 Rudri September 23, 2010 at 4:51 pm

I’ve always appreciated the destination and not so much the process. These days I am trying to refocus, because I think concentrating on the process opens the door to living in the present.

Great topic Belinda.

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