I watched a YouTube vid yesterday about outcome-focused thinking versus process-focused thinking. I was watching it for some research for a writing assignment, but it related to other thoughts that have been swirling around in my head for the last week or so.
A little background on my thoughts…
A dear friend of mine sent me an email and in it, she mentioned her personal frustrations with dating and being single. She couldn’t pinpoint why they seemed to be more poignant and at the front of her mind recently, but she didn’t want them to crowd her thoughts and skew her focus away from things that were so good in her life.
She asked me how I “got through being single in a culture/environment that is predominantly married and places a lot of emphasis on being married.”
I live in Utah. The culture here is family focused and a lot of people marry at a young age.
The focus of dating in this state is on getting married. There’s even specific advice that once you’ve reached a certain age, you should be going out on dates that are paired off, planned, and paid for. If you’re not dating with the intent of hunting down your eternal companion, you’re doing it wrong.
This brings me back to the video I watched. Dating with the target being to get married is an outcome-focused attitude. The video pointed out these two reasons that this thinking can hurt:
- You lose sight of the growth and progress along the way
- You neglect to create a strategic system or process that will lead to success
Those are the “two main problems”. Do they relate to dating?
For me, I would often beat myself up over being single, wondering, “What’s wrong with me that I’m alone?” I couldn’t step back and see all of the growth and progress I’d made as an individual in my life. Instead, I focused on the ways that I saw myself as broken: mental health, awkwardness, yellowish teeth, little boobs, too pale, too quiet, too somber, really bad at getting up in the mornings, etc. We’re really good at finding our own faults.
I didn’t focus on all that I had accomplished (college degrees, career, saving money, incredible relationships with friends and family, etc.), or the ways in which I had learned to find the best partner for me based on plenty of dating experience.
That’s the first point as I relate it to dating: worrying too much about still being single put my focus on the wrong thing.
As far the second point, and a “strategic system”, when I was focused on still being alone, I created a stormy cloud around me in regards to dating. Who wants to go out with a girl who isn’t having fun?
Bob Costas interviewed Michael Phelps in 2016 and asked him how he would feel if he only earned a silver medal in one of his races. His question, as you can guess, was focused on the outcome.
“How would you feel if you did not achieve your desired outcome?” he was basically asking.
Phelps said, “I know I could look back at how I prepared and I’d know that I did whatever I could do to prepare myself to be the best… I’m willing to accept whatever results I would get. I’d be ticked off, but I’d know, deep down inside that it was the best I could do that day.”
When you are working towards a goal, all you can control is putting in the work you need to do to achieve your goals and trust that if you’re putting in the hard work, it will pay off.
After years of dating, I learned to change my mindset and instead of focusing on why I wasn’t married, I tried to identify what mattered most to me: how could I feel fulfilled and satisfied in life in an area that is under my control?
I said yes to opportunities. I got to know a lot of new people. I focused on bettering existing relationships as well. My job mattered to me and I worked hard to be competent and do well.
And my values mattered to me. Terry Patten wrote, “Practice is about waking up again and again, choosing to show up in life in alignment with one’s highest intelligence.” That was hard for me, but each day I tried to do better at living my life according to my personal values: being honest, loving others, working hard, helping, being happy, and improving myself.
About a month before my 33rd birthday, my Aunt Natalie passed away from cancer. She never married although we talked often about how much she wanted, that she wanted to have a family, that she wanted companionship. At the funeral, it was the first time I realized her impact on each of her nieces and nephews. My cousins all felt like Nat had been their biggest fan, devoting time and love into their relationship.
She never got her marriage outcome, but the way she lived her life showed me how to focus on the process instead. I knew what motivated her. We spent time together, talking about how to define that and put it into action in how we lived. She was a favorite life coach of mine.
She lived her core values everyday. She brought joy to the people around her. She did this through music, through her smile, and through her genuine emotions. I could be real and raw with her and she was the same with me.
If I was feeling down, I could simply spend time around Natalie and feel her infectious happiness. And she did all this even while struggling with depression her entire life. At Christmas time, I miss her.