WHY GETTING IT RIGHT IS WRONG
PSYCHOLOGY AND THE PROCESS
By choice, my life essentially has been about process. When I am not involved in the act of process through art or psychology, I seek it out in my relationships, hobbies, and however, I can. I like to know that all of my interests, relationships included allow for the potential of change and growth. This feels good to me and I am excited by things that never seem to have a finality or a determined achievement. Whether it is the creative process, the therapeutic process, or the process of skateboarding, I like things that do not easily allow for mastery. After spending years of gravitating toward these interests, I can predict that if something has a steep learning curve for me, it means that it is about to take up a large part of my life and be a source of great delight. The beginning is always hard. But knowing that ultimately I’d rather be deep in the process of something rather than seeking mastery helps get me through the parts of the process that can feel hopeless. Because hopelessness is inherently part of the process. And I guess I kind of like that.
I’ve wondered a great deal about finding delight in process. I’ve thought about what I might enjoy in that space and think very deeply with my clients about their own processes and what lies there for them. While there is a wealth of conversation about process not being linear - this pertains quite clearly to wellness and healing which usually involves forward momentum met with standing still or feeling stuck, plateaus and even progress that seems to be moving farther away from the ultimate goal. But all these movements are still part of the process and because of that, pretty predictable. When my clients feel frustrated or arrive at a place where they feel stuck, I assure them that feeling stuck and impatient and wishing things were moving forward or in a different way is still a part of the process. These frustrations do not mean we have taken a wrong turn or are not working hard enough. It simply means we are in the process.
There is a saying among clinicians that work with people in acute crisis about how the nature of acute crisis is predictably unpredictable. Meaning however powerful and alarming a mental health crisis can be, there is still a set of predictable behaviors associated with crises, even episodes of full blown psychosis. The longer you work with populations who exhibit what seems to be unpredictable behavior, the more you are able to determine that there is actually a good deal of predictability. I pull from the notion of predictably unpredictable when feeling stuck in the process myself and helping clients navigate these often disorienting parts of the journey. What feels like an unexpected or impossible to overcome part of the process, simply means that you are in the process. And being in the process inherently means that you are already further along than you were before you entered the process. If we know it is going to be predictably unpredictable, we actually know a lot. The most important part? Just start.
I was musing on all of this late last week when I serendipitously came across a quote from world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma that seemed to somehow fit.
He says, “I’ve been playing the cello for over 60 years so I should be getting it right by now. However, is that what I’m trying to do? Am I trying to get it right or am I trying to find something?”
So outside of the fact that this sentiment instantly created major mind melt for me - to the point of where I had to take a moment. Like when you eat something that tastes really good you need to sit down. I was totally there.
Let’s break down this concept. What is the difference between trying to get it right and trying to find something? Pretty big I think. And a good reminder for those of us who are by nature lit up by seeking. I can say with certainty that I am more interested in finding something than getting it right. I think that’s where my love of process comes from. And when I think about what connects my clients, as different as they may be, they are seekers too. Somehow we find each other. And perhaps being a seeker is being a creative. The endless looping of creating something from nothing only to do it all over again. And then again. Turning finality into an ongoing process. Always being curious.
And this feels different from an achievement - I create these distinctions without judgment. Both to seek and achieve are good. Both to seek and achieve are bad. Perhaps they are different flavors of the same process. And perhaps we try on both when in different parts of the process. I’m not sure. I’m playing in the space here. And we could probably all benefit from playing in both sandboxes every now and then. And many of us do. Both can be true and isn't that great?
What I think is of critical importance here and what is illuminated by Yo-Yo Ma’s words so well, is in asking the question. “Am I trying to get it right or am I trying to find something?” Is a really important question to start asking ourselves. There will be times when getting it right and achievement are of the utmost importance to our goals and values and there will also be times when the patience and unknown qualities of seeking are where we need to be. Are we taking a job because we are trying to get it right, or are we trying to find something? Are we in a relationship because we are trying to get it right or are we trying to find something?
Along with the curiosity inherent in this question, there is also an introspective quality. To digest the notion of trying to find something, means we need to know a little bit about ourselves. What could we be trying to find? Are we on a quest to fill a void? Does seeking provide joy or does it distract from an internal fear? Does it do both? Does seeking prevent us from the commitment of getting it right? And does getting it right prevent us from looking within to aknowledge our own desires? All good questions and ones that we should ask ourselves. Also ones that are impossible to ask without the practice of introspection. And it is a practice. Getting to know ourselves and being curious about our emotions and behaviors is a practice. It is a skill we work on every single day. And one that often can be hard to figure out on our own. Big picture, this is what quote unquote doing the work trachea us. Not only does it help us process through our past present and future, but along the way we learn how to be in the process ourselves. How to be curious, slow down and ask a lot of questions. If you seek clarity, start with curiosity.
I’ll leave you with one more Yo - Yo Ma quote to think on for a while.
“At one point, I had the audacity to think I could play a perfect concert. I came to the concert and I started playing. I was in the middle of the concert, and I realized everything was going perfectly well. And I was bored out of my mind. I still remember it, during the concert, saying, you know, I could actually just stop, and walk off the stage, and not feel a thing, because I had separated the act of doing something from the act of being present.
That was the moment that I made a fateful decision that I was actually going to devote my life to human expression versus human perfection.”
Damn. Sit with that one for a minute. Let me know what you think.
Thank you for being here.
Listen to this episode here.