Life, Training, and How To Savor The Process

It's good to be back from a little writing hiatus.  I find there's an inherent ebb and flow when it comes to creative development. There are periods of dynamic growth alternated with frustrating traffic jams.  This phenomenon is simply what I have come to call the process.  The process is always running in the background of everything we do.  Admittedly, I'm obsessed with observing the process and so it's the subject of today's musings.

The process is life unfolding, the passage of time coupled with the intention to do something with that time.  The process is messy, uncomfortable, challenging, and unique. To go through the process requires tenacious effort and unwavering faith.  The process gives us what we need, at the time we need it. Life is a process and every endeavor in life has it's own process.

To better make sense of the process, we build outcomes. Landmarks or endpoints within a process.  Outcomes allow us to plot a course and make deliberate moves from point A to B.  They are clean, easy to grasp, and allow room for comparisons.  Outcomes build our confidence within boundaries.  We love us some outcomes in today's society.

The process and the outcomes are interrelated concepts.  The process is an infinite sea of potential, the outcomes are our course in navigating these waters. All process and no outcome - we drift aimlessly.  All outcomes with no mind to the process - we become trapped in our own design. We need both frameworks to enjoy a full human experience.  Yet as I look around, I see lot of focus on outcomes and very little love for the process.  As I reflect on my journey in training, I know there's room for a better balance.  We must take time to savor the many flavors of the process.

Outcome-focused Imbalance My fitness started out as a chase for outcomes, namely a "beach body" or high performance.  There was an underlying assumption that the more fitness I could attain, the better my health would be.   I spent years pushing my body hard towards the outcome of health.

I began to feel the physical and mental toll.  I was burning out my energy systems.  I was fragile, constantly injured. And worst of all, my thinking was ultra rigid - I had become a slave to my routine.

I had spent years confined to formulaic exercise and mechanical movement.  I had to break the cycle of mindless fitness goal setting.  My preoccupation with outcomes was robbing me of my humanity and turning me into a machine. The harsh reality set in. I was out of balance. My fitness was actually costing me my health. This was the result when chasing my outcomes became more important than the process itself.  It was time to reevaluate.

“Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death."
-Anais Nin

Process-focused Growth I didn't one day just say "fuck it" and throw out all my goals.  It was a process just to embrace the process. My new goal outcome was getting back to balance.   Gradually, my attention shifted to movement skills, exploration, diversity, and play.  I came to a greater appreciation of quality over quantity and joy over obligation.  Increased mindfulness curbed my tendency to rush haphazardly to the next step.  I learned to be more present in the moment. I learned how to patiently build myself up one day at a time.  Progress was the by-product.  It all started flowing more easily once I got out of my own way.  My growth was deeper and more sustainable.  I was on my way back to being a human.

We live in a culture that obsesses over outcomes, demands achievement at any cost.  For me, natural movement training was the endeavor that plugged me back into the process.   Mindful movement and minimal living became woven into my lifestyle and progress began to unfold organically.  Ultimately, this physical progress would lead to mental, emotional, and spiritual development.  Over the years, the process beneath my movement training has illustrated an array of valuable life lessons and brought me to a deeper understanding of myself.

As a coach, I strive to do more than just hand out the blueprints to better fitness. I work with my clients to build a process-focused approach to training. By drawing awareness to the process we explore the spaces between training and life for a richer existence.  Here are some quick ways to gain more process-perspective in your own life.

Embrace your failures. You're not entitled to the outcome you are pursuing.  Learning through your failures builds your intuition and molds your understanding of what works for your body.  Josh Waitzkin calls this "investment in loss"-  failing fast and failing often is essential on the road to mastery.

Question the beaten path. "...because that's the way things have always been done" is not an acceptable reason for doing anything.  A better approach exists.  Conventional will only get you so far. When it comes to your personal practice,  individualization is everything.  Do you, and fuck the naysayers.

Learn from everyone, everywhere, always. I have been privy to many great thinkers and a lot of bullshitters. There were lessons to learn from all of them.  For any given interaction or observation, find a message can you take away.

Handle your shit. Your issues will stay your issues until you resolve them. Physical, mental, emotionally - baggage is baggage.  Search for the root causes of your chronic injuries. Challenge your self-limiting beliefs. Recognize your patterns in relationships.  Awareness is the first step to transcendence.

Unzip your files.  Apply new knowledge and make it your own through experience.  Revisit old concepts that you've packed away, see if there's an opportunity to build a deeper understanding.  Learning is an ACTIVE process.  Make space in your life to synthesize your own values, to answer your own questions, and to build your own frameworks.

Live life with vigor, ambition, relentless determination...and stay humble enough to remember that none of us has all the answers.  Never stop exploring.

-Kellen