Changing Focus: Forget outcomes and focus on process
We all know someone who is focused on outcomes. Someone who feels that they are defined by their home, their car, their job. What happens to this person when they aren't rewarded for their efforts? How does this impact their mood, motivation, and self esteem?
Most of us have grown up in a society where outcomes are valued. We enter school and immediately begin to receive some sort of grades. We receive a "good Job" if we did something well and our parents rave about our artwork every time we show them a masterpiece.
You may be asking yourself why this seems to be an issue. The challenge is that in focusing on outcomes we overlook the importance of the process. Our children are also learning that only outcomes matter (and may get into the habit of doing things simply to receive that outcome). we wonder why kids cheat or sometimes sabotage others if the outcome is the only thing valued?
What about the child that works really hard in school only to get mediocre grades? Now think about the child who puts in no effort and gets and "A". The child with no effort gets more of a reward because the focus is solely on the outcome.
Our children also can easily begin to crave this external praise and reward. This will cause them to be motivated by the "payoff" of things rather than their own internal drive and desires. This becomes a challenge when the rewards and payoffs are no longer given. Does this child still feel motivated to do the same things?
Let's jump ahead a bit to our children when they grow up. The enter the world and come to the realization that there are other people who are better than them at various things. Maybe they work really hard on a project and their boss hates it. How will a child who has always heard good job and who believes that all that matters is the outcome, handle this?
We live in a world that likes to focus on outcomes and what we produce. A parents, we can help add another perspective. We can plant the seeds that our children are so much more than their grades, their artwork, the car they drive, their bank accounts (all of these are outcomes).
By focusing on the process we can show our children that we see their hard work and that we are acknowledging and noticing their process. So instead of saying "good job" it may look something like this:
"You studied hard for that test"
"You were really focused"
"You seem really proud of your artwork"
You can see that the focus is on the process and is void of our evaluation. It shows that you see and that you notice the process they took. It shows them that this is what you are focusing on rather than what they produce which allows your child to focus on the process instead of the outcome and the possible payoff. This will allow your child to feel more confident to try new things because they are O.K. with the fact that they might not be good at it. They will learn to focus on the process and not be devastated if someone doesn't like the outcome. Most importantly they will learn that their self worth and self esteem is not based on outcome. They won't be defined by the outcome or someone else's judgement of it.
Claudia Glassman is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Registered Play Therapist, and Parenting Coach who offers one on one coaching services. Claudia is passionate about helping parents find joy and gain confidence in their parenting abilities. Her vision is to share her knowledge and bring awareness to the importance of the relationship that we have with our children.