Reality Check: Choosing to Find Joy in the Process

For a little over a year, I’ve had an orchid sitting on my table. It’s a tiny plant in a tiny purple pot. When it was given to me, it was in full bloom.
The blooms lasted for what seemed like an extraordinarily long time, despite almost no care from me. It was amazing. Eventually, the blooms fell off, the stem withered, and the blooming was over.
However, the leaves didn’t die and the plant seemed stable. It didn’t grow, but it didn’t die, either. So I kept it on the table. Months passed.
Remarkably, a tiny, fragile stem started to emerge from the root ball. And it grew. Slowly. Very, very slowly. Eventually, little knobs began to form on that stem, showing the promise of new blooms to come.
Now, after what seems like months, those buds look like they are really, really close to bursting into bloom. Well, they’ve looked that way for quite a while now, but I’m convinced that it’s close to blooming again. Any day now. Perhaps more accurately, any week now, I will have a blooming orchid!
Clearly this process is not one to be hurried. My experience suggests that the orchid is likely not the most satisfying plant choice for anyone who is impatient.
Some people of certain personality types like things to be done. They like their tasks best when they have been completed; when the lists have been checked off and the work is finished. They like the feeling that goes along with looking back and taking pride in a job well done. Sometimes, even if it’s not well done, at least…done.
I’m one of those types.
People who share my trait may find ourselves going through all kinds of processes that, at the time, we would like to hurry along. For example, if you’ve ever gone through a major move, you can probably still remember the joy of that process! It sure feels good when you’ve finally settled into your new place; much better than it felt during the process, when you’re lugging boxes around and wondering where the dog’s bed could have possibly gotten to.
There are plenty of other processes that we would like to have over and done. Perhaps you’ve gone through the process of having negotiated a substantial purchase. Or maybe you’ve experienced the processes involved in taking a rigorous educational program. So many processes feel so good—when they are finished.
During a process like that, it’s tempting to focus only on the anticipation of the end. Essentially, the recurring thought may be along the lines of, “When this is over, then I can finally be happy.”
Not all of those processes that we experience are as pleasant as waiting for the orchid to bloom. Yet even the unpleasant processes can be full of opportunities—to learn, to grow, and with moments to enjoy.
In fact, we could view our whole lives as a kind of process, couldn’t we? Wishing for major experiences in our lives to be over is, literally, wishing our lives away.
Each process comes with the opportunity to observe, to pay attention to the changes, and perhaps even to make positive interventions. Time is passing anyway. We may as well value it and pay attention to what is happening as it goes.
So, as much as I prefer to have my tasks done, my lists checked off, and my processes finished (preferably successfully), I may as well value the process. And as much as I would like to see the orchid finally in bloom, the waiting and watching brings its joy too.
Do you get enjoyment from tasks while they are in process? Or do you get your joy from completion?

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