The Painless Path to Endurance (Plus: Breville Winner and More) by Tim Ferriss

The Painless Path to Endurance (Plus: Breville Winner and More) by Tim Ferriss

What really interested me about this article was the section Process vs. Outcome. A study of goal-oriented vs. process-oriented people in the workplace showed that:

it was not the hypercompetitive Type “A” people who were doing more for the company, making more money, getting more raises and promotions. It was the folks who were enjoying their job.

The next two paragraphs hit home for me:

Ironically, not getting wrapped up in the result may deliver higher gains. I had heard that before. One of the best pistol shooters in the Russian armed forces made a breakthrough in his accuracy when a coach told him, “You know, you have the right to miss.”

One of Douillard’s techniques was practicing a competitive sport without keeping score. “Focusing on the score attaches you to the result. Focusing on the process lets you access your greatest skill and increases your fun.” That rang true.

The reason why these paragraphs hit home for me is because I’m trying to improve my singing and it reminds me of something similar my voice teacher said to me (I’m paraphrasing here):

Focus on the causes, not the results. Over time, the body will improve itself.

Don’t worry about getting a good result. Just concentrate on what you need to do. Be open to catastrophic failure. (I was too concerned about bringing up too much chest voice and thus was holding myself back psychologically (and so was trying to control the result)).

This idea of being process-oriented applies to many other things, but at the moment I’m just wondering what is the optimal approach. It’s probably a mixture of both. Set goals to know the bearing, and then do the process to do the dirty work to get there. Or if you’re finding yourself too goal-oriented, just focus on the process 100% and vice-versa if you feel you’re getting lost. Maybe it depends on the activity itself, or when to focus on one at the expense of the other. For example, I play badminton weekly and I find that for the tougher games, I tend to be goal-oriented (trying to win) and end up playing terribly. When I try to switch to the other mindset of just having fun or even just practising, I find I do play better but can easily be sucked into the other mindset depending who I’m partnering with.

Another thing that interested was the (for me) counter-intuitive notion that having fun improves performance. Here’s the quote:

The book [States: Body, Mind, and Sport by John Douillard] was dedicated to improving one’s performance by reducing the effort to 50%, enjoying the process, and not focusing on the result.

It’s counter-intuitive for me because these days I tend to be serious, read a lot on deliberate practise, and that having fun equates with taking it easy. I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen far too much of “taking it easy” translate into poor progress. I feel I’m getting old now and don’t have time to waste on taking it easy. But can one have fun and improve at the same time? By it’s nature, deliberate practise is hard. And often, hard things aren’t fun. But I guess it depends on the nature of the person whether they find hard things fun or not. Many people delight in puzzles, and they like them because of the ever-increasing difficulty. They relish hard problems. And, as you’ve guessed by now, I don’t. Can such a mindset be learned? It would be immensely valuable to anyone learning a skill. Maybe they’re doing what Douillard advocates: focusing on the process increases the fun. It’s probably a combination of that and other things too, like being hooked on the dopamine hit, that feeling of accomplishment that comes from completing a hard puzzle.

There’s one thing I haven’t considered yet: does this “enjoying the process” approach only apply to atheletic activities? I don’t know. The only way to know is to try it.

I didn’t intend this to turn into a full-blown post, but these are important things to consider.

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