What I learned from outcome chasing in my career

From co-founding a startup to failing, building my career as a product marketer to starting my own coaching and consulting business – here’s what I’ve learned from chasing outcome after outcome.

1. We have very little control over outcomes (but our brains like to pretend we do).

Our brains love to believe that we have a lot of control in our lives, but the truth is we don’t (we’re seeing this play out right now with COVID-19). The only thing we have control over is our thoughts and how we react to circumstances.

The first time this sunk in for me on a professional level was when the startup I co-founded in 2015 failed. I gave it everything I had and it wasn’t enough. I felt a lot of shame and thought it meant I wasn’t “entrepreneurial.”

It took me a while to shift my mindset from “I’m not capable” to “it didn’t work out this time, but I can try again”.It’s easy to say, “if I just work hard enough and put in the hours, I’ll make it work.” While hard work is non-negotiable for success, it doesn’t promise success.

Believing hard-work promises success is what fuels hustle culture and leads to burnout.In 2018 after working at early-stage startups for three years, I jumped through all the proverbial job interview “hoops” and got an offer at a dream publicly-traded tech company – only to have the offer rescinded five days before my start date because of visa issues. I’d already quit my old job and told everyone about my new exciting gig. I kept thinking, “How could this happen? I did everything right!”. There were lots of tears.

When we believe hard work promises success, we feel entitled to results – entitled to outcomes. That entitlement is a poison to our future success, satisfaction in life, and keeps us ruminating and stuck on what we should have or could have done differently.There are so many variables that contribute to our success that are outside our control and the minute we accept and embrace that, we can move through life with so much more grace and peace.

2. Outcomes are fleeting

This desire to control our lives and outcomes tends to manifest as rigid practices in our day-to-day lives. For me, this rigidity looked like working 60 hour weeks and using weekends to “catch up” on whatever I thought I was “behind” on. Note: these hours weren’t pressed upon me from the startups I was working at – they were self-imposed. I thought that any free time I had should be devoted to learning – growing – not chilling or enjoying. All of this rigidity in my life was geared towards chasing certain outcomes: smashing my OKRs, getting a promotion, etc.

I spent so much of my 20s living in the future, miserably chasing these future outcomes, rarely stopping to breathe and enjoy the process or embrace where I was. When the outcome I desired actually came, I rejoiced for what felt like a moment and then quickly moved on to tackling the next thing on my wishlist.

Outcomes are fleeting. We can spend weeks, months, hell, even years chasing certain outcomes and when they finally arrive, we quickly move on. That’s why it’s so important to enjoy the process – most of life happens in the process. If we aren’t enjoying the process then what kind of life are we living? Joy and fulfillment don’t happen if and when we achieve something – they ought to exist while we’re working to achieve those things. Even if we don’t get the outcomes we want, we can at least say we enjoyed the ride. The time to enjoy your life is right now. How can you approach your work and challenges from a place of playfulness?

3. Ignoring your intuition is costly

Being too rigid blocks us from listening to our bodies. When we’re set on following our logical mind and the rigid processes we set for ourselves, we actually shut out our intuitive side – our subconscious mind. We need both sides. When we’re dealing with uncertainty or ambiguity and our logical mind starts short-circuiting trying to figure out what to do with not enough information, that’s a great time to check in with your gut – and listen.In my experience, your intuition communicates with you through your body – that lump in your throat, tightness in your chest, pit in your stomach – all relevant data points.

In my first year in business, I launched a program in my coaching business that I wasn’t excited about. My logical mind told me to be excited about it – I’d spent months putting it together, but in my gut, it didn’t feel quite right. I launched it anyway because pivoting felt like a step back from achieving my desired outcome. I went on to make a whopping zero sales (and “waste” more time).It’s like if you got on a bus and then realized you were headed in the wrong direction. In your gut, you know you need to get off the bus, but the other part of you is thinking, “You already went through the trouble of getting on this bus! Just see what happens!”

Your body gives you so much information. If you’re tired, in pain, or uncomfortable – don’t just dismiss it as something to overcome – take it as an intuitive hit. In my experience, chasing outcome after outcome means you’re likely ignoring the signals from your body that something is off balance.

The unexpected can be scary, but other times it can be utterly glorious. By releasing attachment to outcomes, enjoying the process, and trusting my intuition as a reliable compass, I’ve been able to build a career and business doing what I love and find success on my terms – even if it’s a different version than the one society glorifies.

This story was originally published on Elpha.