This week, I’m inviting you to channel your time and energy into what you’re doing in every single moment, rather than in looking towards your end goal. Presence means being fully engaged. This is what allows you to make aligned decisions and build the skills you need to reach your goal, and ultimately what moves you forward.
Tune in this week to discover the value of being focused on the process versus the product. I’m sharing tools and concepts from a book I love called The Practicing Mind to help you focus on the process of getting to your goal, and I know implementing these nuggets will make the process feel so much more like magic than the agitation and frustration we often get trapped in.
This is Weight Loss Success with Natalie Brown, episode 56.
Welcome to Weight Loss Success with Natalie Brown. If you’re a successful woman who is ready to stop struggling with your weight, you’re in the right place. You’ll learn everything you need to know to lose weight for the last time in bitesize pieces. Here’s your host, Master Certified coach, Natalie Brown.
Hey everybody. Thank you for all of the support and love for the podcast last week and really all year long. So it was so fun to celebrate a milestone here with all of you. You listening and sharing and reviewing is what grows the podcast and allows all of the goodness to find its way out into the world and into more people’s brains.
So I live in Salt Lake City, and if you’ve never been here, it’s a huge valley surrounded by – almost completely by majestic mountains. I live on the east bench of the majestic mountains and my home overlooks the valley. I can see all the way to the majestic mountains on the other side of it.
And at this time of year, the mornings are kind of magical. When the sun comes up just before 7am because of the aforementioned majestic mountains, it’s not quite up up. You can see that the light exists, the sky is bright, but you can’t see the sunlight shining on anything because it has to make its way up and over the mountain first.
So I wake my little up for school at seven every day and for the hour that we’re getting her up and ready and lunch made and water filled and all that jazz to get her out the door for school, the sun is slowly making its way across the valley. It’s one of my favorite things.
It starts with just a glimmer of sun on the tips of the west mountains and as it rises higher in the sky, more and more of the mountains are washed in a blanket of sunlight. And then it makes its way down to the valley floor and across the valley. Every few minutes when we glance out more of the valley is covered in sunlight, and then eventually it gets high enough that we are no longer in the shadow of the mountain here at my house and we get to feel some sun too.
It’s like the sunset and the fall leaves and the blossoms in the spring to me, it’s just magical and mind-blowing every time. Even though I’ve seen it before and I know it’s coming, I still just find so much joy and wonder in it.
Well okay, so this particular morning, I woke my daughter up as usual, and she ended up getting dressed and coming and snuggling with me back in my bed. So as we lay there, I looked out the window at the sunlight starting to hit the tops of the mountains and anticipated watching it make its way down the mountain as usual.
And as I sat there and watched it, it occurred to me that it felt like it took an endless eternity to move. Sitting and staring at it and watching it and trying to see it make progress seemed futile. The change was so imperceptibly small. As the seconds ticked by, I found myself thinking, “Is it stuck? Is it broken? What is happening?”
My typical routine of just sort of glancing at it as I pass the window throughout the morning is so fun because I could see the progress. I go about the business of getting ready and getting my daughter ready and I look out and it’s moved all the way down the mountain. And then I do a few more things and I look out and its partway across the valley.
Every time I look in between tasks, it’s made some progress. But when I was staring at it, focused only on it, it seemed as slow as molasses. Sound familiar, anybody? Thomas M. Sterner says in his book that I love so much, The Practicing Mind, “When you focus your mind on where you want to end up, you are never where you are. And you exhaust your energy with unrelated thoughts instead of putting it into what you are doing.”
You are never where you are. Isn’t that so interesting? Such an interesting concept. When it comes to our goals, being where we are, in process, rather than focused on the end product, it allows us to channel our energy into doing and to practicing. And that’s what moves us forward.
Presence or being where we are in that case is fully engaged, rather than just passively observing. As I sat still and tried to watch the sun move, I felt agitated and impatient because I was focused on it getting somewhere else. More sun, sunlight covering the whole valley, the sun finally making it to my house.
This is how we get with our goals. We look at our progress with the end in mind and we end up never being where we are. We’re in the past thinking about all the evidence that’s holding us back from success, or we’re in the future focused on how far we still have to go.
It takes us out of the moment and uses the energy we could be pouring into making aligned decisions now and practicing skills now and exercising patience now and it spends that energy instead on imaginary things that get us nowhere.
I use the word journey frequently in reference to the weight loss experience and I know we all have heard all the sayings about the journey, like enjoy the journey and joy is in the journey and it’s about the journey and not the destination. But I think often that puts the experience in a more passive context, like we’re just on a journey, it’s just a thing that’s happening, it’s traveling from here to there.
So what if instead we reframe it as a process? A series of actions or steps taken. It moves it from passive to progressive. Sterner says, “When you focus your mind on the present moment, on the process of what you are doing right now, you’re always where you want to be and where you should be. All of your energy goes into what you are doing.”
Now, here’s one aspect of this that I love. If your focus is just lose 30 pounds, the product, and is instead eat the foods at this meal that I have planned that feel good in my body, or stop eating when I am full, the process, then your goal is just paying attention to what you’re doing now. What is in front of you now. The task at hand now.
And you get to feel success at accomplishing that goal over and over all day long. And you know how I feel about celebrating and feeling success as much as possible along the way. It’s an incredibly important part of creating new habits.
When we get present and focused on the process, we can then get to work practicing the skills we need to build, to reach our goal. Instead of thinking about how far we have to go or how long it will take or how hard it will be, we get to think instead about simply what we want to be doing in this moment.
Not just what is the product we want to achieve, but the process we need to engage in to get there. This doesn’t mean of course that we take our eye off the prize completely. We just use the goal as a rudder under the water, out of sight, to steer our practice instead of the measure of how we’re doing.
Think about one aspect of the weight loss process that feels challenging to you right now. Maybe it’s planning ahead, maybe it’s dealing with urges and cravings, maybe it’s the pace of the weight loss. It feels too slow to you.
For most of us, what makes planning ahead challenging is our experience of it from the past. We have memories of it taking too long or being restrictive or not having enough ideas or not knowing what to eat, right? It feels hard.
Or we have thoughts about the future. Having to execute the plan and not wanting to. Having to say no to ourselves, not being able to be perfect at it and all the beating ourselves up that will commence when we are not. This takes us out of the moment of it.
If we get present and focus on the process, all it requires is that we write something down. We write down foods that we want to eat tomorrow. We just have to think about what we like, what we want to eat, and write it down. We practice making decisions from love. We practice tuning into what our body wants. We practice being realistic and kind with ourselves.
And then we exercise the quiet perseverance of patience as we practice and make adjustments and improve. You can tell you are focused on the product and not the process when you feel impatience or frustration or other forms of agitation kind of start to creep in.
Those are signals to you that you are drifting out of now and into the past or future. Just notice this and bring yourself back to the present. What is happening now? What is the process you are in? How can you be where you are?
I want to share with you the four S’s from The Practicing Mind because I think they’re great little tools to help you as you focus on the process of getting to your goal, rather than just the product or the achievement of it in the end.
The first is simplify. This is the being realistic that I talk about. Ask what is the simplest version of this. Of this task or of this thing or of this challenge and see how creative your brain will get breaking it down to a simpler form.
The second is small. Break your bigger goal down into smaller sections. Instead of taking on planning all your food for the whole day or week, think smaller. Could you plan one meal or one snack ahead of time?
Third is short. You can do anything for 30 seconds or three minutes. Think of the parts of the process that you feel are important, but your brain is telling you take too long or that you don’t have time for. How could you make them shorter and therefore doable for you?
Last is slow. And I would say last the best of all the game here. We are in such a rush to get where we want to go. I think this concept of slowing down is key. When we slow down, it forces us to pay attention, to notice what we are doing, thinking, feeling. Slowing down, working slowly, slowness facilitates presence.
Think about what would happen if you slowed down during your meals. Just there. It’s the only place you incorporated slowness. The prep, the cutting, the chewing. If you incorporated slowness into each part, you might actually taste your food. You might notice colors and textures and smells. You might start to notice what it feels like in your body and be able to tune into when you are full. Slowing down allows you to be where you are and acknowledge what matters, what’s important to you, what you value.
This is one of my favorite nuggets from this book that I love so much. A little sentence starter that I think is magic that brings all these S’s together. Let’s just see if I can blank. So insert your simple, small, short, slow part of the process here and see what magic you can make.
The last thing I’ll leave you with is an analogy that I love that illustrates this concept of slowing down and being where we are. Focused on the process rather than the product, and how this can serve us so beautifully as we head in the direction of our goals.
Imagine you want to swim across a small lake to a lovely grove of trees on the other side. If you put your head down and focus on your arms moving through the water and your legs propelling you forward, and every few strokes you lift your head just enough to fill your lungs and check on the location of the trees to make sure you’re on course.
You will eventually get to the other side. If you try to keep your eyes on the trees the whole time you are trying to move toward them, you will end up doggy paddling, treading water, and burning up massive amounts of energy with your ineffective swimming techniques.
Rather than focusing on the process, what you are doing, being methodical and present, your focus is on where you are going and the attention to what you are doing then becomes secondary. This seems pretty clear, right? Makes logical sense, what works and what doesn’t.
And yet many of us are doggy paddling and slowly sinking trying to keep our eye on the goal that doesn’t seem to be getting any closer. Simplify. Make it small, short, slow down. Focus on the process. Not the product. Practice and have patience. You will totally get there and build so many skills in the process.
Okay my friends, I would love your input. What are you struggling with? What are you having a hard time figuring out? What would you love to learn more about? What questions do you have for me? I want to make sure I help you where you need help most, so head to itbeginswithathought.com/question and submit any and all of your weight loss questions to me. I’ll see you soon.
Thanks for listening to this week’s episode of Weight Loss Success with Natalie Brown. If you want to learn more about how to lose weight for the last time, come on over to itbeginswithathought.com. We’ll see you here next week.