Is your life process driven? Is it purpose driven? Do you feel that you’re not even the one driving your life? Perhaps you feel more like a passenger sometimes?
I know the feeling of “being a passenger” for sure. I once felt like my life was out of my control. That feeling was the catalyst for my moving towards a life that was process driven. I’ve been living this way for several years now and I’ll never change. It has been my foundation for success and emotional stability.
Why not purpose driven? Why do I focus on “process”. Isn’t it good to have goals, to have a sense of purpose about what we want to achieve?
Absolutely it is good to have goals, but I have found that “motivation” and “inspiration” are the most highly overrated concepts that exist in the field of performance and obtaining results. Habits, systems and process, trumps motivation every time.
I definitely have goals, and some of them are large and audacious. But each day my primary focus is process, not purpose. I try to chunk what will take me towards my goal into tiny, daily, chunk-able actions, and then only focus on getting those chunks done each and every day. I focus on “checking off the chunks”.
Here is why I advocate for adopting a “process driven life”:
1. Motivation is highly overrated, and unsustainable on its own
Motivation is like caffeine. A short burst of energy, that isn’t sustainable on its own (without more caffeine), followed by a “downer” that leaves you with less energy than you had before you took your caffeinated shot. The worst part about it is that, in most cases, it comes from an external source. We get motivated “because” of something we hear, see, want, need, experience. But it comes as a result of stimulus, it doesn’t take place automatically. It doesn’t anchor in our subconscious.
I have seen this over and over again in working with small business entrepreneurs. They feel a shot of “motivation” or “inspiration” because of something – that leads them to sprint on an achievement, but because they’ve never established a process or proper habits, their actions aren’t sustainable. They need to read another book, “re-engage”, find momentum, and “re-start”. The starting process is much, much harder when you don’t have momentum. A process driven, and habit driven person, doesn’t need to do this. They don’t need dramatic motivation. They just focus on getting the little chunks done.
2. Any goal is achievable if you chunk it down to its smallest parts and then attack one chunk at a time.
Have you ever heard the silly quote about “how to eat an elephant – one bite at a time.” There is profound wisdom in that concept. Really any goal is achievable, no matter how large, if you embrace this concept. I learned this by writing my book Unsuited. Many people are intimidated by the process of writing a book. Being process driven I found it to be quite easy. Here was the process:
My book needed to be between 200-220 pages (based on my publisher’s guidelines). For me that ended up being just over 65,000 words first draft (later cut to just over 59,000 for publication).
65,000 words may seem, to some, like a lot, perhaps even an insurmountable goal, but let me show you why being “process-driven” makes it easy to achieve.
One page of type is about 350 words. All I had to do was 350 words each day, and in 186 days I was done. 350 words took about an hour or so to do. So one hour a day, for just over 5 months and my book was done. Simple. Process. Chunks. If I wanted more each day (my goal in fact was 500 words a day) then my time to complete would be shorter.
So each day I just focused on 500 words. Nothing else. Before I knew it, I was done and I was an author.
3. Being process driven allows us to detach from our emotions. Our emotions are often the biggest impediment to our achievement (whether we realize it or not)
Being emotional, I’ve found, can be a huge liability. Emotions are the drivers of the “motivational world”. In the achievement world I’ve found that the more “scientific” I can be, the more “computer like” I can live, the better my results are. I love the methodology in the very popular Lean Start Up model by Eric Reis – build, measure, learn. It is exactly in line with a process driven mindset.
Being process driven allows you to detach from your emotions. You are seeking data. You are performing small chunked actions each day, and then you measure to see if you are moving closer to your goal. If you aren’t moving closer then you choose new small chunked actions. If you are – then you stay the course. There is no discouragement, there is never a need to vent, there is no victimization mindset. There is only data. Data and process.
4. Change doesn’t happen overnight. It is always the result of the culmination of a whole bunch of tiny steps.
This concept has been studied over and over again in the performance literature world. Change is slow. It is compounding. It is incremental. However, when you are process driven, you see this as a massive opportunity. You realize the leverage you have on yourself if you will just focus on getting tiny daily victories, and how these victories will compound and pay off over time, like the doubling of a penny sustained. When we focus on process, the results just happen.
David Brailsford – one of the UK’s top sports performance minds, who was instrumental in helping the British cycling team compile 14 medals in the Beijing games, had a philosophy called “the aggregation of marginal gains”. In essence it is the same as the process approach I am advocating for. The overall effect of a 1% performance gain each day is astounding when you follow the numbers over time.
5. It is really easy to get discouraged when you are constantly focusing on your goal
I really believe in the zen concept of detachment. It works in goal achievement. The more tightly I seem to grasp at things the easier they are to fall out of my hands. However, then I detach, when I just focus on process and completing my daily chunks it is remarkable how my goals seem to be fulfilled.
Detaching from a goal doesn’t mean that you don’t want it. It just means that you are directing your focus to what is in front of you – what you can do – instead of what you don’t have and what you want.
This is the foundation of being process driven. Focusing on what I can control. When I just focus on what I want, and what I don’t yet have, it is really easy (I have found) to get discouraged and impatient. None of this happens when I’m process driven.
6. Process driven works – plain and simple
Perhaps the biggest reason why I choose to be process driven is that it works. It is far more effective in achievement than getting on the roller coaster of motivation and needing to keeping paying for the ride. Being process driven gets results. I have seen this, not only in my life but in many examples.
The most recent example I came across was the story about British 8s Rowing gold medal team in the 2000 Sydney Olympics as documented in the book Will It Make The Boat Go Faster. Author and Olympian Ben Hunt-Davis recounts the sustained nearly 8 years of losses and disappointments that the British team suffered, despite being highly motivated before they adopted a process driven training model. Driven by the daily question of “will it make the boat go faster” they adopted a pattern of small marginal, sustainable, habits maintained over a four year training regime. These small processes could be tracked, analyzed and adapted based on performance – and over time this shift to a process driven mindset paid the ultimate prize – an Olympic Gold.