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The Problem with Process

By July 6, 2018No Comments

Our world has become quite intolerant of process. We like quick fixes and things to be ‘easy-peasy.’ We stand by microwave ovens tapping our feet, wondering why it’s taking so long. We’ve become a society of Instant Gratification Junkies. Instagram. Snapchat. Texts that travel from one device to the other side of the world in microseconds. In some ways, this ease of ‘quickness’ should be the best thing ever yet we are some of the most stressed out people ever! Research is showing that we have some of the highest levels of anxiety ever.

So what does that have to do with process?¬†Well, much of life is a process. Learning how to ride a bike or read is a process. Learning how to braid hair or cross-stitch is a process. Breaking a bad habit is a process. Preparing a gourmet meal is a process. In a world that has become increasingly driven by instant gratification, there is virtually no room for process. This tends to increase ‘all or nothing’ thinking and short-circuit the depth of value and reward that comes from working through a process to accomplish something worthwhile. As you may have heard, ‘the journey is the destination.’ This truth is getting lost in a destination obsessed culture. We want to lose weight, NOW. We want to buy our dream house, NOW. We want to buy things we can’t afford, NOW (and pay much more later on credit cards). We want the management level job, NOW. We want it all, NOW! Where is the anticipation — the satisfaction that comes from dreaming, planning, working toward a goal and achieving it? Here are a few reasons to restore the act of process to your life.

Process is beneficial and necessary. Like a caterpillar in a chrysalis, process must take place in order for the pupa to gain enough strength and maturity to work it’s wings up to the point where the butterfly can take flight. We actually watched the transformational process of a caterpillar becoming a monarch butterfly when my boys were in grade school. It took a long time (in the minds of two young boys!). As the creature went through it’s metamorphosis, the look of the ‘thing’ in the chrysalis changed from that of a grub to a beautiful butterfly getting ready to take flight. The little chrysalis kept moving and shaking and eventually splitting. A wing came out. Then an antennae. It was so tempting to peel the rest of the chrysalis off so the butterfly could just hurry up and go. However, that would have killed the butterfly. Disrupting the process of transformation literally would have killed the transformee! Working it out — processing — pushing through and developing is beneficial and necessary to our moral, spiritual, physical and intellectual growth. The pushing through is what builds our strength.

Process is what equips us for the next steps. Like the butterfly working his way out of the chrysalis there are often stages we have to go through during a process of growth and transformation. If we bypass the process, we will often be unprepared for the next step. Recently we’ve had two people in our circle who have become firefighters. That has been a long, hard process of preparation! Can you imagine if they had only needed to submit a form online and then get chosen to work at the local firehall? Yikes! I would not want to be caught in a burning building near that hall. The process they went through was hard — experiencing hardship/frustration and stress, having to get their applications turned down, fail tests, get put through numerous loops and hoops (some of them repetitive), prepare their bodies to carry large amounts of weight up and down ladders, pay money to apply/re-apply, etc. Some might think that was a frustrating and unnecessary process to put these willing participants through but let me tell you, these guys know what it is to persevere, to tolerate process, to work hard, learn from their mistakes, and never give up! THAT’S who I want to pull me out of a burning building.

Process is worth doing. There is much value that comes from submitting to a process of learning, preparation or training. There is value in enduring and persevering. There is even value in allowing yourself to wait in a line for something that you really want to see/do or buy. These are the times and places where we learn virtues like patience, grace, kindness to self and others, endurance and how to invest our time and money = prioritizing. Some of the greatest troubles in our present day society are associated with not being able to wait and an aversion to process. Gambling, eating disorders, drugs & alcohol, addiction of many kinds, all spin on the same axis — having no tolerance of process. Spiritual growth and development only come through process. Healing, physical, emotional or mental, is a process. Time does not heal all wounds but it allows for a process of renewal and restoration to occur.

Next time you are tempted to forego a process in search of instant gratification consider training yourself to work it through. You can tolerate the distress of waiting. You can tolerate the work it takes to make it through. You can do process, even if and when it is extremely difficult. Some joys in life can only be known through process.