We live in a largely results-oriented, outcome-focused society.
Business, personal, and everywhere in between, we’re constantly pursuing something. And it’s typically a well-defined something – a goal, a milestone, a takeaway or exchange, a reward or recognition.
I’ve been wondering a lot more lately what it would look like if we pursued more somethings solely for the sake of the experience.
The process. The feeling of doing, not the feeling of accomplishment. And maybe a later reflection or lesson learned, but if that didn’t come it wouldn’t be the end of the world either.
That’s something I find we talk a good game about, but don’t often put into practice. We talk all about how the value is in the process, and don’t be so attached to the outcome, and “It’s about the journey, not the destination!” etc etc etc. And yet, we still default to this inherent need for a concrete result. We lead with a, “What am I going to get from this?” mentality. We want answers. Right answers. Applicable takeaways.
But I think what we fail to see in that approach is that skipping over the experience and directly to the outcome often lessens its impact. And literally every single interaction we have, no matter how we go into it, can provide answers and applicable takeaways – if we’re open to them looking differently than we defined up front.
I’ve been doing a lot of chatting with a lot of people lately. Many, so many, meetings. In-person, online, personal, professional, some a blurred hybrid of that. And some of the most “productive” meetings I’ve had were ones I’d nearly written off, or just had a gut feeling would be good, even if I didn’t know what that meant. Conversely, some of the least productive were the ones I’d placed the highest outcome expectations on. Certainly, that’s not always the case, but it’s definitely a revealing pattern as I go back through the last six months of my calendar.
Like the StoryBrand seminar I lucked into for free, thinking it would really help me clarify my brand proposition! Dud. Total dud. I got a few useful tidbits (there are always useful tidbits), but that big outcome I was so sure would happen? Not even a little bit.
Or the phone meeting I had with the programming director for popular and bustling networking and innovation event, thinking it would be such a great way to get my foot in the door! Awkward, and almost too easy. I came away thinking maybe that wasn’t a door I wanted to walk through.
But the coffee date I rescheduled three times with the founder of a really cool, up-and-coming organization for kids, families, and moms, thinking that this would be way above my level and wouldn’t be a fit, so I went in with zero expectations for any results. Best. Hour. Ever. We had such incredible conversation, and she booked me for an event in the fall and hired me personally as a life coach.
And the coffee catch-up I set up way back in April with a friend I’ve been meeting with regularly for nearly two years now, thinking that this had no outcome expectations at all because it was just a friendly chat…that basically ended up in tears for both of us as we talked through our eerily similar life and business updates and journeys. Oh, and also, I solidified another speaking gig with her for the fall. The outcome of that meeting was clearly everything we both needed and didn’t even know going in.
And the video date I had just this week with one of my fitness connections, thinking it was just to chat because she’s a lovely person and I like talking to her every so often. Lo and behold, over an hour later, I had two pages of notes full of resources and thought bubbles and things to ponder about speaking engagements, not to mention the pleasure of the light on her face when I shared honestly my update since the last time we talked in the fall. The real value of that time was actually an outcome for her that I had totally not expected to come about, and that, in turn, lit me up.
And it’s not just this story of oh, just be open to everything and the results you want will show up in unexpected places when you’re not even trying! It’s more, try not being so focused on results in the first place. Life is not a race to checking the most boxes and trading the most favors. And if that’s the only way you look at everything you do, you’re likely to feel like the biggest, most important boxes are left unchecked.
Part of what’s underlying this conversation is the fact that most humans crave certainty. Stability. Black and white. Give and get. Again, answers, and preferably, right answers.
But life is uncertain. And there are no right answers.
Put another way, I often talk to people who are leery of coaching. They’re not sure what they’re going to get, or they’re not sure it’s going to lead them to the desired outcome they’re so attached to, or they want to be completely assured that it’s going to get them the all the answers they seek.
Again, this is a failure to see that the value isn’t always in the outcome or the answers. The value is in the experience itself. The value is in the questions. (And my clients and testimonials will tell you that.)
I’m enjoying a lot of experiences and people right now with no defined or expected outcomes, and it’s proving to be some of the most well-spent time ever. I’m able to be present. To reflect. To listen. To serve. I’m not thinking of so many things in terms of, “What am I getting from this?” And still, I’m ultimately finding answers and outcomes.
Sometimes the most effective insights and results can come from the least structured and expected places and people.
I’ll be clear in saying that yes, there are many instances where we’re in it for results or a specific outcome, and that’s of value too. It’s like those AT&T commercials where “Just OK is Not OK” – I expect fresh sushi too.
But there are a lot more interactions in our lives that could benefit from a lot more flexibility. I’m just not sure that every single thing in life is always about “begin with the end in mind.” Vision is important, but visions can change, they can be achieved in myriad ways, and what if you let your experiences take their own shape and enjoy that instead of always trying to mold them into a certain thing before they even unfold and then being disappointed when it doesn’t match up?
Because when it comes down to it, we don’t know the end, and we can’t remove that uncertainty.
So it’s not about trying to control everything and making sure your experience always fits the certain, well-defined outcome. It’s about living the experience, as uncertain as it can be, and seeing it as its own outcome.
I can tell you that there’s value in leaning into uncertainty, exploring it, peeking into its dark corners. Soon, it’ll start to feel less like uncertainty and more like curiosity. And curiosity will quickly turn into excitement.
And if you run with that excitement and curiosity, and quit looking for specific answers, results, outcomes to alleviate all that uncertainty, understand it’ll never go away, and then start playing with the possibilities and experiences on your journey – the “outcomes” are going to be exactly what they’re meant to be and it’s going to feel good.
Never underestimate the power of time, meetings, tasks, or journeys with no defined outcome. The things you never even knew you would have desired as an outcome, but are the most incredible match for your life, are what you’ll find in the unstructured and unencumbered time and experiences.
Hey, if you need to explore some outcomes – defined, or undefined – let’s do it. Schedule a quick call below.