Most people make judgments based on events rather than on process. We judge a sports team by wins and losses, we evaluate scientists based on their discoveries and we rate artists based on the sales of their albums. But the events don’t always tell the full story.
In the book Sidelined by NFL football coach Chuck Pagano, he describes his journey after being diagnosed with cancer. He was talking about a few specific games while he was in the hospital and then said, “However, as my cancer experience testified, events don’t always go as planned.”
I immediately found myself agreeing with his message. I thought to myself “events are very unpredictable so we have to stay focused on the process and improvement. We keep making progress and it will put us in the best situation to handle the randomness of events.”
While Chuck’s journey is an extreme look at overcoming adversity I feel we all face smaller challenges all the time. How we deal with these small difficulties helps us grow and improve. Do we dwell on the unfairness of the event or do we look to get back to work and realize that sometimes events don’t go as planned?
For me this has been challenging. I am a very proactive planner, sometimes to the extreme. Times when the events fall outside of the plan I can get a little anxious. This is probably why Chuck’s message is so impactful to me. It shows that we have to focus on the process despite all of the adversity that is likely to come.
Chuck starts the next paragraph by saying “Because you can’t always count of life – or football games – to go as you expect, you have to focus on the process, do the work, take it one day at a time or one play at a time, and stick to it.”
Whenever I talk to someone about systems and habits they initially think that this is a very rigid approach. They assume this doesn’t account for the variances in life and isn’t flexible enough to really work.
But I have found developing our systems and habits is very flexible. It is flexible because it keeps our focus on the process and making improvement. It adjusts when necessary but doesn’t adjust after each event. It keeps us moving forward and only pivots when we need to make changes. And when we decide to make changes this approach helps us put in place systems and habits that will continue to move us towards success.
When adversity comes, the best approach is to focus on the process and keep going. If you spend too much time deciding what it means or what to do you can easily get caught in analysis paralysis where you don’t do anything. Overcome this by sticking to the process and continue to work. Be aware of the adversity and necessary changes but don’t get too caught up in thinking.
This takes the planning and evaluation part and separates it from the actual work. This helps keep us from making decisions biased by our emotions about an event. It allows us to plan and make sure we are on the right track but to buckle down in times of adversity to keep moving through the storm.
It doesn’t matter that you thought up the perfect plan; what matters is that you kept taking steps towards your goal. This will ultimately help you get to where you want to end up, even if that end goal changes from time to time based on the uncertainty of events and the randomness of life.