For the past year, we’ve been building a home in Muskoka. It has truly been a labour of love with one seemingly impossible challenge after another. Dangling from scaffolding and trudging through sawdust have just become a part of everyday life. Progress is slow at times, but when a project comes together it feels so worthwhile. I recall a day not too long ago when we got a drain and no longer had to empty the bucket under the kitchen sink… Ah, small victories!
Some of my fondest memories over this past summer have been sharing landmark accomplishments with friends, but one question comes up over and over again: “When is it going to be done?” In those moments, I have noticed myself feeling demotivated, exhausted, and sometimes even defeated. I search for a date to satisfy their curiosity and imagine everything that’s left to do. Quickly, I feel like I want to give up.
Now if you are trying to recall if it was you who asked the question, fear not. I know that my friends have nothing but good intentions. I’ve come to realize that it’s less about my friends and more about the culture that we live in. We have been conditioned to focus on the goal, the deadline, the completion; and if you are a leader, there is a good chance that you may be driving your team the same way. But, if the focus is only on the goal, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. There will always be another goal that needs to be met.
As high-performers, goals help us push to new heights. But when I was watching Michael Phelps’ new HBO documentary, I was struck by his description of the emptiness that can follow a competition—even after winning gold. And if we want our teams to avoid burnout, we need to prevent the constant cycles of “What now?” that comes whenever a goal is met.
Let’s fall in love with the process. The sheer joy of all the little accomplishments along the way!
So how can we help others stay on track and stay motivated? By asking question like…
- “What are you enjoying about the process?”
- “What have you been learning along the way?”
- “If you had to do it over again, what would you do differently?”
And as I continue to work on the house, I’ve promised myself that with every screw and nail, every colourful brush stroke and awkward design choice, I am going to love this messy, beautiful process! And when faced with my least favourite question? Well, taking deep breaths is part of my process too.