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If vehicles were like your projects/activities and the traffic design/flow was an important part of the process of your life, would you prefer your life to flow like the oncoming traffic above, or like the flow on the right?

What's the full idea of process first?

Let's develop the vehicle/traffic metaphor

 

I'll use this metaphor (with some adjustments) to communicate to you comprehensively the meaning of "prioritizing process over results." Prioritizing process over results includes two fairly distinct prioritizations (that also affect each other). When done together, they constitute the complete idea of prioritizing process over results. I'll call these PP1 and PP2, for prioritization # 1 and #2 of the process over results.

 

To the extent that you successfully implement and maintain this you are creating and maintaining Now-Next integrity.

The projects, activities, routines, and tasks (parts)

Consider the vehicles on a highway as your various projects, activities, routines, and tasks that fill the 24 hours of every day and the 168 hours of every week. For short, let's call these parts

What does it mean to ensure PP1?

Often our habit is to assume that our Next gets to set up our week and to set up our day without consulting with our Now. Our Next doesn't stop to ensure that our Now is included and likely to be willing and eager to engage and continue in the process of many, if not all of these parts that Next plans/needs to include in each day and each week. Because our Next fails to do the work to align with our Now, Next often has to drag Now grudgingly or rebelliously through getting most of the parts done in our day. Consequently, it's difficult to get through the day and we're rarely happy and fulfilled at the end. 

Just as each vehicle/driver on the highway has an intended destination, each of the parts of our day has an intended result, even if the result is just to relax by taking a break. Get the dishes washed, enjoy a chat with a friend, eat a snack, cancel an appointment, get some rest, talk with the boss about a raise. These are all parts of your day. They "consume" no more and no less than 24 hours of each of your days.

 

But what if a particular vehicle/driver (as a metaphor for one of the parts that fill our day) was not in great shape for the trip (bad driver, tired driver, vehicle doesn't run well, not enough gas, not oiled, bald tires, brakes and accelerators don't work in coordination). If any of these were the case, it would not matter much (for example, if you ran out of gas), at least for that driver, whether you were a driver on a highway where the traffic flowed easily (as on the left in the photo above) or on the highway with a traffic jam (as on the right). Regardless of how great the traffic situation is, you're not going to be a happy camper.

Ensuring PP1 means creating Now-Next integrity regarding all the parts of your day, as they are set up and done individually. Both Now and Next are happy and aligned with the "doing" of each part.

What does it mean to ensure PP2?

Assume that you are consistently handling PP1. But, if you don't also handle PP2, you're still going to have a rough journey, likely with frustration and upset. Traffic jams and slow traffic will be a common occurrence. Cars will tailgate and sometimes crash together. Multi-vehicle pile ups, creating traffic stoppage and jams, causing problems and delays will sometimes stretch over several days. Travel times (accomplishment times) will take much longer than you anticipated or wanted. You'll miss your connections with other vehicles that you needed to rendezvous with. In general, everything will be an entangled mess with a lots of upset for almost all of the drivers (all of the parts) of all the vehicles on the highway.

Why does this happen?

Because you've defaulted on your power as the traffic controller of how the highways and roads are designed and get used. This is all part of what's necessary for you to create Now-Next integrity and the life you want. Handling PP2 is essential for making everything work well together. But you've neglected your responsibility for maintaining a traffic system ecology that works well for all vehicles on the road (that is, all the parts that you include in your days and weeks). You've allowed over-use of the limited road-space (your limited 24 hours in each day), creating your own personal tragedy of the commons (by not limiting the parts you put in your 24 hours and how much time each part gets to use).

Planning for adequate buffer and "under utilization"

As the traffic controller, your job is to prioritize the easy and quick flow of traffic and also minimize the chances of breakdowns on the highway. You prioritize this over how many vehicles you allow on the highway. If you have to choose between adding one more vehicle to the road (that is, one more part) and maintaining the flow of traffic with minimal breakdowns, then you always choose the latter. If you maintain this priority, then the highways under your purview (that is, the time use in your own life) are preferred by drivers (that is, each doer of each part that you schedule within your 24 hours) over all other highways controlled by other traffic controllers (compare to how most others set up their life). Check out Doer and the Planner.

As the traffic controller you have immense power. You can ensure the highways are kept in great shape, designed for easy flow with minimal possibility of accidents or slow downs. You can include rest stops and other services (like filling up for gas) at frequent intervals so that drivers don't get fatigued and they can always have plenty of gas (like taking a five-minute break every 25 minutes). The whole system is designed to facilitate the easy, fun, effective flow of traffic (flow of the parts of your days and weeks). 

Becoming the "traffic controller" of your life

Imagine you have learned to do your job as the traffic controller (planner of how you select and arrange the parts in your day) so that you're even a little bit under using the highway capacity (unlike other traffic controllers who are always over estimating how many vehicles they can allow on their highways). This way, if there are vehicle breakdowns (or maybe an emergency ambulance needs to get on the highway) from time to time, there will be enough buffer on the highway so that it doesn't usually affect the other vehicles (the other parts of your day). Yes, as the traffic controller you sometimes have to choose courage to say to a driver/vehicle (a part you think you have to put on your schedule) that there's no more room on the highway (at least not today). You also do not allow driver/vehicles on the highway unless they specify the maximum amount of time they will use the highway (each part scheduled in your day must have a time limit: "I will finish this task or spend 45 minutes on it, whichever comes first"). If the vehicles were allowed to use "as much as they wanted/needed," then that would max out the system (again creating the tragedy of your own personal commons).

When you begin to master your job of ensuring both PP1 and PP2, all the other traffic controllers, as well as the drivers of cars that have to drive on their highways instead of yours will be amazed at how you're doing what seems impossible to them. Many will try to explain it by, "Well your highway system is different than ours (your life situation is different than ours). Whatever you're doing wouldn't work over here." Little do they know.

You're loving your days, your weeks, your life. You flow and life flows. Both your Now and your Next are feeling great both at the end of your day and the beginning of the next one. They rarely fight any more. It's easy, even when there are breakdowns or "difficult decisions." You also see that, in the big picture, you're getting even more accomplished than previously (this makes your Next happy) when you didn't have PP1 and PP2 and you were insisting that there was no way you could take things (parts) off your plate and prioritize the process over the results.

Five factors (one or in combination) may make creating PP1 and PP2 seem "impossible"

Moneycuffs: It seems that you need to change up or even start a new career in order to set up your life so that you're loving what you're doing and it all flows together. But you're locked into your current job (moneycuffs) because it brings in more money than you think you could get otherwise. And all that money is going out. You've "got to have it."

 

Timecuffs: Even more of us are in the "jail of inflexibility" from timecuffs than from moneycuffs. Your Next has all these things (parts) that she or he wants to do, needs to do, has to do, promised to do and they more than take up (even though they can't) the 24 hours in your day. On top of that, your Now often grabs chunks of time (that wasn't scheduled) here and there and messes up your plans even more. There is just no way to prioritize process over results. "All this stuff has to get done," you insist.

Peoplecuffs: These also might be called the HOGABcuffs. The needs, expectations, and demands of others, along with your promises and the obligations you think you have to others, make creating a life with PP1 and PP2 out of the question. You have either entangled (or allowed yourself to be entangled) with other people's needs and expectations so that it seems impossible to prioritize taking care of yourself.

Egocuffs: We could also call these cuffs your "identity cuffs" or your "looking-good-to-others cuffs." Egocuffs create a "jail of inflexibility" because you're trying to prove something (for example, that you can do more or that you're a good spouse). You could feel that you need to maintain or increase your "success" as viewed by others. You can't give that up. Your whole sense of your self-esteem is based upon that.

Sunk cost bias: You've already invested years of time and effort in trying to make the old way work (results first). You can't just give that all up. All those years and effort will have been suffered in vain if you don't stick with and eventually make it work. You can't turn your back on and betray all those ideals of persistence and "no pain, no gain" that you've believed in (and even taught to others) all your life.

Step by step (and with courage)

It can seem that the costs of extracting yourself from one or more of these cuffs would be more than the benefits of doing so. And, yes, there can be one-time transaction costs. With some creativity and taking things step by step, even those can be minimized. Above all, you will need to choose courage. Even though the costs of continuing in the old default way of prioritizing results over process are life-numbing, it doesn't stimulate more than the ongoing background of anxiety and stress that you're already used to. You know you can tolerate it. You've done that all you life, to one degree or another, like most everyone else. It's the "normal" way to be. Everybody agrees.

Taking the stand

Even though you don't know all the details of the path toward mastering PP1 and PP2 (process first), it's not necessary in order to get started and keep going. The first step is to declare this new life direction.

"I, (your name), declare that I am moving toward becoming a master at putting process first over results!"

Then use Kickstarting a mental habit to keep this declaration in mind and to keep looking for the next do-able step. And then take that step. Then again. And again. That's all it takes to become a master at process first and Now-Next integrity.

Whenever you notice any fear associated with taking the next step, use Undoing fear to make friends with that fear and tap into its energies. Include taking yourself through all four steps of choosing courage (undoing fear is the first of those four steps).

If you're still feeling overwhelmed by the idea of making this major new course change in your life, check out Thank God it'll take a long time.

“Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. 

Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary Truth,

the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans:

that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.

 

“All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. 

A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor

all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance,

which no man could have dreamt would come his way.

 

“I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:

 

‘Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.

 

Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.’”

 

                  -W.H. Murray

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