Some things are just not as straightforward as we want them to be. And instead of steadily tracking progress and checking boxes, we're forced to trust the process and keep working towards results.
Goals and timelines are great tools, but not all achievements are linear. In fact, most aren’t. And especially when it comes to personal growth goals, things just take time. That's when you need to trust the process—here's how to do it.
What does it mean to “trust the process”?
It takes an intense amount of patience, dedication, and purpose to get to where you want to be personally. But it’s not as easy as “do these 10 steps, and you’ll be a happier person”. Life is not a game of Candyland where we draw cards to see how many colored tiles we get to move. Travel the gumdrop pass and skip 9 steps? Unfortunately, there’s no option for this in real life.
So, what do we do when certain goals for ourselves just aren’t happening as fast as we want OR in the way that we want? We have a choice - either abandon the goal altogether OR embrace the journey that we’re on (albeit a different one than we may want) and trust the process.
Trusting the process vs. focusing on progress
Trusting the process requires that we rewire our brains. We have to change our thinking about what progress looks like. But when we do this, there’s actually more growth potential available.
We are capable of more growth when we trust the process.
In fact, one could argue, that if we begin trusting the process when it comes to ALL our goals, we would come away with more lessons learned, deeper personal growth, and longer-lasting results. They may not be as measurable as whatever goal we set out to achieve in the first place. But ultimately these internal changes and self-reflection can be more valuable.
8 Ways to Trust the Process
It’s important to remember that when we trust the process, it doesn’t mean we don’t have a game plan. The outcome of our process can still be successfully completing our goals and achieving our desired end result.
But trusting the process grapples with the fact that we do not control everything. And part of personal development is knowing that. Knowing when to let go. Knowing when to realize that what you’re learning in the present moment is a part of our success. These are some ways we can start to do that.
1 - Lay aside your expectations
Part of trusting the process is letting go of the expectations we place on ourselves.
The first way we can begin to rewire our brain and trust the process is to set aside all expectations. These expectations keep us from practicing gratitude for the way things are actually turning out. And it’s an important step for us to let go of what we “should” or “ought to” have accomplished. Trusting the process starts when we see the deeper growth potential. When we shift our eyes and focus to seeing the journey AS the destination.
2 - Journal through the steps
One way to practically train our brains to embrace this new way of thinking about the process versus progress is to journal. Journaling is a great way to put our thoughts and feelings on paper. And being to process them. Plus, it’s a natural way, as we journal more and more, to track our progress. Or should I say “track our process”? Because after all, the lessons we learn along our journey are sometimes the most important ones.
3 - Pause the stopwatch
Stop the timer on progress.
Most all goal-setting techniques include steps for setting a timeline or date of completion. This is the “T” in SMART Goals, “Time-Bound.” But some personal growth goals are achieved on a much longer timeline than we initially thought. And resetting the clock over and over again can be defeating. Trusting the process can look like stopping or pausing the stopwatch. Just be okay with an unknown end date and embrace the waiting.
4 - Embrace the waiting
You guessed it, the next way to trust the process is to do what we just say, “embrace the waiting.” One way to do this is to identify what is working against your ability to wait well. Do you have daily timers on your phone reminding you to “hustle!” or somehow refocus your attention to what progress you have (or have not) made? Allow yourself more time to wait and also create space for waiting in your life. Embracing that we cannot control the pace at which we reach our final destination is sometimes so freeing. And it allows us to have a mindset of patience over time.
5 - Cultivate more self-love
Find beauty in the journey that you may otherwise miss.
Self-love is the idea that we see promoted here and there. But do we actually practice it? Adjacent to self-care, self-love is all about cultivating a deeper acceptance of self and appreciation of who we are and what we are capable of. Self-love aligns so well with the idea of trusting the process. Because we have to actively rehearse a narrative of love in our heads in order to keep positive energy when we are “in-process” with something. This also helps us be content when we reach a phase in our personal development journey that is hard.
6 - Start new healthy habits
One way to help the process along is to control what you can control. Tweaking or making changes to existing habits is one way. These are great times to direct our energy to form new habits. Daily actions that add up to healthy habits can enhance daily life in a positive way. This is one of the ways trusting the process can directly correlate to personal growth than just the achievement of an ultimate goal.
7 - Add encouraging players to your team
Surround yourself with encouraging voices.
Who we surround ourselves with matters. Having family, friends, and the right people to encourage us when we’re working on ourselves is important. It can help us stay the course and learn new things about ourselves. Plus the messages we hear via a podcast, book, social media influencer, etc., can be a huge part of our daily inspiration. Something as simple as posting quotes around your workspace or living area can help remind you to see value in the journey, take the next step, and trust the process.
Check out our quote hauls for inspiration!
- New Week New Goals Quotes for Your Monday Motivation!
- 72 Simple Life Quotes in One Line You Should Write Down
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- 52 Quotes That Will Remind You Not to Settle for Less
8 - Utilize the power of affirmations
In this case, we're talking about a specific affirmation: Trust the process. If you repeat this to yourself on a regular basis—ideally a daily basis—you'll start believing that you can trust the process, or in the words of Gabrielle Bernstein, that the universe has your back.
9 - Celebrate learnings along the way
Have you heard of the phrase “Learnings not earnings”? It basically means celebrating the more lasting and enriching things or lessons you learn along the way. Do this instead of focusing solely on what you are hoping to achieve or come out earning at the end of it. These learnings, especially when acknowledged and celebrated, become a part of who we are. They can be truly transformative and more valuable than whatever we set out to do in the first place.
An example of trusting the process in everyday life
Let’s say one of our goals is to get into a better health and wellness routine. We set our intentions, map out our steps to achieving our goal, and start setting new daily practices into motion.
- Wake up in time to meditate
- Go to the gym
- Cook healthy meals at home
- Eat out less
- Hydrate more ounces per day
- Get a good night’s sleep
Six weeks in, and we haven’t hit a milestone we set. We are at a crossroads. We can either get discouraged and ultimately call it quits OR we can trust the process. Trusting the process looks like pausing to assess our daily habits, our mindset, and what we have accomplished in the last 6 weeks. This can set us on a new course towards a better outcome.
But this practice has deeper implications for how we handle difficult or disappointing situations in life. This choice to trust the process means giving love and grace to ourselves. It finds value in what’s not necessarily measurable, and it allows us to press on towards the goal with a renewed spirit of excitement and an alternative outlook.
Now we can get on a new track. Maybe with a different timeline, some tweaks to the daily routine. We can trust ourselves. And we can celebrate what positive changes we have made up until this point.
Trusting the process is taking the off-ramp. Getting off the highway of high achievement and taking the back roads the rest of the way there.
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