James Clear in Atomic Habits writes about falling in love with the process of achieving your goal instead of the goal itself. If you are always waiting to achieve the goal to be happy, that may never happen, but if you enjoy the journey along the way, the process becomes the focus. It is in the process you succeed or fail. For example you can have the goal of being a musician. The goal doesn’t make it happen. It is the daily practice, the process, that makes it happen.
Don’t’ get me wrong. Goals are important. They tell you which way to go. Otherwise you would be like Alice in “Alice in Wonderland,” taking to the Cheshire cat:
“Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don’t much care where.
The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.
Alice: …So long as I get somewhere.
The Cheshire Cat: Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.”
Changing the process is answer to correcting the problem permanently. For example, you want a clean car, so you wash it everyday. But everyday you drive through a mud puddle on your way to work. Washing your car daily achieves your goal temporarily, but if you always want a clean car you need to steer around the mud instead of through it. Clear explains, “When you solve problems at the results level, you only solve them temporarily. In order to improve for good, you need to solve problems at the systems level. Fix the inputs and the outputs will fix themselves.”
Great advice, but what does it have to do with parents, children and attachment. Parents want children to become happy, confident, self-reliant, successful adults Wonderful goal. But the process takes years–sometimes 20 or more. People often say, “Once I reach my goal, I’ll be happy. Twenty years is a long time to wait to be happy.
Creating a secure, supportive, loving connection with your children is a process that again takes years, so enjoy the journey with them from childhood to adulthood.
How do you do it? It takes time, patience and understanding. When your two-year-old tugs on your pant leg as you talk on the phone, instead of pushing her away or pointing to her toys pause for a moment, smile, and give her a hug and kiss. What she really wants to know is “Are we still connected? You look so busy. Have you forgotten me?”
The process may require you to reorganize our priorities: kicking the soccer ball instead of watching soccer or reading to a child instead of reading the newspaper. It seems children often seek you out when you are the busiest, but remember often what they are asking is “Are we still connected?”