The Process

“The process”. It’s a popular term today in sports and coaching. You may have heard it mentioned in post-game interviews: “I’m not too worried about next week’s game. I’m just focused on the process. I’m taking it one day at a time.” The term is popular because it is simple and is a great philosophy. More and more coaches are adopting it. At the highest levels, emphasizing the process is a necessity. Coach John Wooden, winner of 11 NCAA championships, is probably the most famous advocate of the process. Today, coaches such as Nick Saban and Pete Carroll are known for their obsession with the process.

But what exactly is the process? It can be distinguished from the end result/goal. If the goal/result is next week’s football game, then the process is everything leading up to the game, starting with the present moment. You can either focus on the goal/result or the process. Why do coaches and players try to focus more on the process?

Here is the rationale: the goal/result is a byproduct of the process. How you perform during a competition is largely dependent on your preparation (the process). Also, whether you win or lose a game, is largely dependent on your effort (the process). So if you focus mainly on the preparation and effort, winning will take care of itself. The process is what matters, it is what you can control. You cannot entirely control whether you win because the opponent may be better, but you can control your effort. If you can control and maximize your level of preparation/effort, you maximize your chances of winning. So instead of daydreaming about next week’s games and doing nothing, focus on the process, and see what you can do now, at this present moment, to prepare. To get to the end result, you must go through the process, not around it. It is the process-oriented athletes and teams that prepare the most and give the most effort, and because of this, they are the most successful.

There is another benefit of focusing on the process. Constantly thinking about the end result may cause negative thinking. You may start to get nervous and start second guessing your abilities and goals. This may decrease your confidence and discourage you from preparing. Staying focused on the process prevents these negative thoughts.

Another important benefit of focusing on the process involves self-esteem and happiness. If your goal is to focus on the process, your self-esteem and happiness will be more stable. If your main goal is to win, your self-esteem may be less stable because you cannot completely control winning. Most likely, you will win some and lose some, so if your main goal is to win, your self-esteem will go up and down with your record. However, if your main goal is the process, which is more controllable, you can be satisfied with your performance, win or lose, as long as you gave it your best effort.

However, there are times to focus on the end result instead of the process. If you never look ahead to the goal/result, you may not gain the motivation to work hard during the process. Thinking about the future/goal/result can guide you, tell you what you need to do to prepare, and motivate you. You can’t focus just on the process or just on the result/goal. Like most things, there is a healthy balance.

Here is my suggestion: focus on the goal/result/future just enough to motivate yourself. After that, stop daydreaming and get to work on the process. If you feel like you’re have no more motivation left, stop and focus again on the goal/result/future to regain motivation. Think of yourself as a driver on a road-trip. You are either on the road (process) getting closer to your goal, or at the gas station (thinking about goal/result/future) to refuel. You will get to your destination fastest if you don’t spend too much time at the gas station, drive the entire day, but refuel enough to prevent running out of gas.

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