Living Your Process



I’m a fan of “living your process.”  To put it another way, this is about “approach over results.”  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of results.  The problem is you can’t control all the events in your life or what happens to you.  In life, you control your attitude and response … and it’s not what happens to you, but how you react.

In this post, I’m summarizing some of the best of the best of what I know about making the most of what you’ve got and being YOUR best.  This isn’t about perfection or idealistic living.  This is about real living for real people.  It’s about unlocking your personal combination for results and unleashing your inner awesome.  if you’ve put other people or their lives on a pedestal, those are nice trophies, but now it’s time to start living the world on your terms, finding your unique strength, and living your values.  Life’s not a spectator’s sport.  It’s meant to be lived.  While there’s tons of roadmaps, only you can make the journey.  Pack your bags with your greatest assets (which you’ll find in this post), and head out.  When life happens, and you get knocked off your horse, get back on.  Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and carry forward lessons learned.  Life is full of lessons waiting to be learned.

Living Your Process
Living your process is really about living life on your terms.  It’s also about leveraging the timeless patterns and practices that have worked well for others.  I think the keys to living your process are:

  • Purpose. Know your purpose.  See Vision, Mission, and Values for some ways to think about this.  It’s tailored for business, but you can adapt it for your life.  I have an example of my vision, mission, and values in my About  page which can also help.
  • Why.  Know why you do what you do.  This is the why behind the why.  One technique for finding your “why” is the Golden Circle.  For more on the Golden Circle, see Why Do You Do What You Do.
  • How.  Know how you do what you do.  Identify your personal success patterns.  If you flip back through your life, you can review what’s worked for you and what hasn’t.  Carry the good forward.  The Golden Circle technique also helps you figure out your personal success patterns.  For more on the Golden Circle, see Why Do You Do What You Do.
  • Values.  When you live your values, you feel good.  It’s that simple.  First, you need to know what your top values really are.  You have a lot of values, but you want to know the top values to optimize your life around.  Once you know your values, your next move is to live your life like you mean it.  This includes seeking out the situations and people that help you live your values, as well as bringing your values to the situation, no matter where you find yourself.  See Finding Your Values.
  • Strengths.   You have a lot of strengths, but this is about your top 5 that set you apart.  It’s your unique voice.  It’s the strengths that come so natural to you that you might not even value them as a strength.   One of the keys of going from good to great is focusing on your strengths over weakness.  When you focus on your strengths, you get energy and you get stronger.  Passion is your key fuel for making things happen.  See Finding Your Strengths.

The power here is that it’s about unleashing your best and living life on your terms.  You don’t depend on anything else.  You simply depend on you.  This means having enough self-awareness and being mindful of your ways.  I think of it as smarter ways for better days.

Approach Over Results
The whole idea of “approach over results” or “living your process” is it’s about giving your best where you have your best to give, making the most of what you’ve got, and focusing on what you control over what you don’t.  You can’t control the results (or scoreboard), but you can give your best shot when you get up to bat.  In life, you control your attitude and response … and it’s not what happens to you, but how you react.
I like Covey’s definition of success … it’s when the response meets the challenge.

Live Your Why and How
If you live your “why” and “how”, you have a ton of flexibility in your “what”s.  You can bring your A-game wherever you go.  Remember that wherever you go, there you are, so mastering yourself is one of the best ways to master any situation.  The real beauty of living your why and how is that you can do it immediately to make the most of your life, whether you live for one more moment or a million years.  It’s being YOUR best in the moment, from moment to moment.  Yes, your world really does revolve around you.  Master your world and the rest of the world becomes a better place.

Success Patterns
Here’s a sampling of success patterns:

  • Learned optimism.  Not everybody has a natural disposition for optimism.  In fact, even if you do, events in your life can sour your outlook.  There’s a reason some events are called “life changing events.”  If you treat optimism as a skill and learn the thought patterns and behaviors, you set yourself up for finding opportunities.  Luck is when skill and opportunity come together.
  • Continuous improvement.   If you don’t use it, you lose it.  You can spiral up or spiral down.  You can decline in areas you don’t invest.  Avoid investing in your body and see how it responds when you need it.   On the upside, a stitch in time saves nine.
  • Growth mindset over fixed mindset.    A fixed mindset assumes either you have it or you don’t.  You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.  On the other hand, a growth mindset means you can learn and respond.  You grow more with skills.  Life is a skill you can learn.  See Growth Mindset Over Fixed Mindset.
  • Coach over critic.  This means being your own best friend.  Pick yourself up instead of shoot yourself down.  Mastering your self-talk will take you further than just about any other skill.  It’s how you make meaning in your life.  It’s how you make the most of what you’ve got and how you make the most of every situation.
  • Strengths over weakness.  You can spend all your time improving your weaknesses or you can invest in your strengths.  Investing in your strengths is how you unleash exponential results in your life.
  • Fulfillment over happiness.  There’s a lot of research to suggest that we’re not designed for happiness.  Even so, happiness is a temporary state.   I’m all for happiness, but there’s also a lot to be said for seeking fulfillment.  Fulfillment is more enduring.
  • Boundaries and budgets.   Invest in your life hot spots: mind, body, emotions, career, financial, relationships, and fun.  If you invest in these hot spots, the sum is more than the parts.  The key is to invest enough across these buckets and to balance.  All work and no play is a problem.  Find ways to leverage what you already do to have these hot spots support each other and help you be YOUR best.  See Life Frame.
  • Approach over results.  Focus on what you control.  While you should know the outcomes you want, you should make sure that you live your values, play to your strengths, and enjoy the journey.  Stop and smell the roses.  The journey may be all you’ve got.  See Process Over Product Orientation.
  • Solution-oriented.  Find a way forward.  Ask yourself questions such as “what’s the next best thing for me to do?” … “how can I make the most of this situation?” … “what the best way forward?” … etc.  See Solution-Focused Questions.
  • Adapt, adjust or avoid.  Sometimes the best thing you can do is adapt yourself for the situation.  Other times, the best thing to do is adjust the situation to leverage your strengths.  What you don’t want to do is change yourself for the situation in a way that loses your strengths or breaks your values.  Sometimes, the best thing to do is avoid situations entirely.  When that’s not an option, get resourceful and find ways to live your process anyway.  See Adapt, Adjust or Avoid.
  • Test your results.  It’s easy to make a lot of assumptions or get stuck or miss out on a lot of opportunities simply because you didn’t take action or test your thinking.  Make it a habit to test your results.  Surprise yourself.  See Scrimmage Your Results.
  • Model the best.  Learn from the best of the best.  No matter what you want to do in life, somebody can help you.  There’s always lessons to learn.  Start asking.  Seek out your favorite mentors.  Most experts love sharing what they know.  Be a ready, willing, and able student.  See Lessons From Per.
  • Master Emotional Intelligence.  Emotional intelligence is what separates us from the animals.  If you master slowing down your fight or flight response, you give yourself a chance to think your best thoughts, feel your best feelings, and make your best moves.  This is key for your interpersonal relationships and how you respond to the stressful events in your life.  It’s one of the most important skills in life you can possibly master.  See Master My Stories.

I’ll have more to say on this in future posts.  To be fair, this post is more of a work in progress.  In fact, I didn’t even plan this post, it was just something that I needed to put out, just in case it just might help somebody find just the inspiration they needed to live the life they deserve and give them enough of the skills and competence to make the most of what they already have.  If I lit your fire, great.  Remember though, that it’s all you.  I’m just here to fan your flames.


  1. J.D. Are you a learned or a natural optimist? I know it has to be one or the other because you radiate the good stuff.

    now.. my mission, my mission, what is my mission…?

  2. This post is filled with passion. I can sense very well.
    I have read it breathlessly 😉
    All these are gems but my favorite is “Coach over critic”. It was life changing for me, a good change 😉

  3. Hi J.D.

    “Live Your Why and How” very true. I am all for making the most of what you’ve got and being YOUR best.

    Thank you for sharing.
    Giovanna Garcia
    Imperfect Action is better than No Action

  4. JD, I have a backlog of insights from you to grok. I’m running out of space on my office area for your words of wisdom which deemed worthy of printing. As so often happens, when I suspect I’m starting to “get” something, you surprise me.

    In this case, the slap upside my punkin head was in the very first paragraph: “approach over results”. Yes, you qualified it–yet I was nonetheless surprised. But it all makes sense.

  5. You also stated, “you control your attitude and response … and it’s not what happens to you, but how you react”. The importance of this struck me for the first time when I read Elie Wiesel’s account of life in a concentration camp–he wouldn’t let the Nazi’s have his mind. Accounts such as his help put in perspective the travails of my life.

    Thanks for the roadmap, JD–which is scarcely a metaphor considering the graphic you’ve provided.

  6. So many approaches, so little time! I like many of the approaches you have mentioned here and your emphasis on process over results is interesting. So often our best intentions are sidetracked due to bad habits learned long ago – so emphasizing process may help fight that battle. The battle of fulfillment over happiness strikes me as particularly difficult. We may not be designed for happiness per say, but it certainly is an enjoyable achievement when we experience it.

  7. Loving this, JD. It’s so great to see how you have taken all you know about yourself and created a practical blueprint for living. You’re definitely living your purpose – and I love that you know why you do what you do, and how you do it best. Thanks for continuing to inspire others to greatness!

  8. Light my fire you did. Not just this time but every time.
    In every post of yours, I always try and find the “a” section(s) that impresses me or interest me the most.
    Not surprisingly they are “Live Your Why and How” and “Success patterns”.
    The success patterns are truly unique. However, this particular pattern – “Fulfillment over happiness”, is quite strange only in terms of choice of words. (dictionary for fulfillment – satisfaction or happiness as a result of fully developing one’s abilities or character).
    I read through “Lessons from Per” only today. To be honest, I’m feeling quite disappointed for not having had a chance to interact with him, considering the fact that I was his next door neighbor not too long ago.

  9. JD,

    I love visual aids like the chart you provided. Recently I dug out a similar map I’d made for myself years ago, in my own handwriting. that was more about goals than processes though, so your point about doing a similar map for processes is a great suggestion.

  10. Hi JD,

    Its just amazing going through your posts, each post has been enriching experience. Here “Live Your Why and How” and “Success patterns” are very impressive and very true. They are real practical insights. Thanks for sharing them.

    Good to see your still upto speed with your mind mapping tools 🙂


  11. Thank you so much for writing this. It has amazing tips that would have taken others 400 pages or more to detail.

  12. Of course there is lots of good stuff here (thanks J.D.!), but sometimes I find a little healthy disagreement to be more constructive to the discussion …

    Certainly some of this stuff resonates with me (coach over critic, strengths over weakness), some I just think about very differently (learned optimism), but the one I’m really struggling with is fulfillment over happiness.

    You say that happiness is a temporary state. I couldn’t disagree more. Over the years I’ve gained enough awareness over my emotions that I’m able to maintain happiness nearly 100% of the time (way more than temporary). You might argue I’m actually experiencing fulfillment, and while I do experience fulfillment often, I wouldn’t characterize it that way. Really, in order for your assertion to be valueable, I think it’s important to be very clear about the distinction and relationship of “fulfillment” and “happiness”.

    Fulfillment is the result of successful accomplishment, or completion of something. Happiness is a state of being, and one you can choose to accept without any preconditions. Therefore, I actually view fulfillment as temporary as it only relates to the specific accomplishment and happiness as a conscious choice.

  13. I absolutely love this post. It could be a synopsis or outline for a book – it’s so packed with incredibly useful, even vital, information. As I read through it, I was thinking about how it could be applied directly to writing, and a number of other specific areas in our lives. You’ve really covered just about everything.

  14. @ Jannie

    I would say early in life I was naturally optimistic. Then I learned pessimism or as I liked to call it being realistic. Then I learned pragmatic optimism.

    Your missions is simply who you are. I think it’s where taglines come in. For example, mine is “make others great” or “exponential results for the underdog.”

    Starting small helps … for example, metaphors help. Are you a friend to all, a music maker, a happiness-maker … etc.

    @ Alik

    Thank you. A little of the right self-talk goes such a long way.

    @ Giovanna

    I find it really helps simplify things. There’s so many paths in life so I think it’s about making the most of the journey a moment at a time.

    @ Jimmy

    Thank you.

    I rank high on the results-oriented scale, but I also know it’s about the journey. Many times, it really is all you’ve got. Results can shift under your feet. What helped me was getting to a one-liner that I could remind myself … approach over results.

    I haven’t read elie Wiesel’s account, but it’s a great reminder that your mind is one of your most important assets.

    @ Fred

    I really like how you teased out that process is a way to fight the uphill battle and I agree.

    I’m only just starting to understand fulfillment better the more I study the variations in personalities, values and strengths of different people. I don’t have a great model yet for fulfillment, happiness, and feeling good.

    One thing I have learned though is that practicing patterns and practices for feeling good is a great way to set yourself up for more moments of happiness. It’s a numbers game 🙂

    @ Janine

    Thank you.

    I like your “blueprint” metaphor. I think you’ve helped me see a lot of things in new ways and new lenses are one of my favorite things in life. It’s a constant reminder we’re our “most important” meaning maker (though not always our “best” 😉

  15. @ Praveen

    Thank you.

    I’m a fan of success patterns, but more precisely, “personal success patterns.” What’s interesting is we all have a set of personal success patterns that helps us be our best. If we don’t know them, it’s easy to lose them along our travels. At the same time, we also have personal anti-patterns. When you identify them, it’s easier to swap them out with more effective techniques. It’s a process.

    It’s funny how you never know just who your next best mentor might be. Since I’ve adopted the practice of making everyone my mentor, life gets better and there’s lessons everywhere.

    @ Daphne

    Thank you.

    I think once the idea that the “why” behind what you do is so important, then it makes a lot of sense why your process is so important … and how your goals (as vehicles) are ultimately about optimizing living your process. It’s maximing your moments.

    @ Louisa

    Thank you. I wanted to give the bird’s-eye view of some of the insights and actions that actually work … time tested … reality approved.

    @ Prashant

    Thank you.

    It’s the patterns and practices way, right 🙂

    I’m such a mind mapper at heart. It’s the simplest way for me to quickly show folks the big picture with low overhead.

    @ Shevonne

    Thank you.

    I’m a fan of precision and extreme knowledge. Really, I’m just a fan of results.

    @ Don

    Good thoughts and good questions.

    Good point on happiness. I actually think happiness, confidence, and a few other mindsets are decisions. I like to drive from happiness and I know some others do too (sounds like yourself included.)

    That said, fulfillment is an interesting path.

    One reason might be some folks are more prone to happiness than others. I learned this from the research in Stumbling on Happiness. Some people break themselves trying to be happy, when really they would gain more by just self-acceptance.

    @ Melissa

    Thank you.

    I would very much enjoy your take on how it can be applied directly to writing. I think that would be a fantastic post.

  16. This is the very opposite of the “Keeping up with the Joneses” mentality, where you are very focused on comparing yourselves to others and on results – their results compared with yours, which inevitably leads to perpetual dissatisfaction.

    You are a very smart man, J.D. (but hey, you already know that). This, and your old post on focusing on your strengths, are my two favorite posts on this blog.

  17. JD, Love this – very Zen like approach and I love it more because it outlines so many of my philosophies.This is also a post that applies as much to s/w, business, life and everything – a wonderful philosophy!

    But yes, too much packed in – i look forward to more discussion on various of these topics 🙂

  18. Great post! I think i see a frame for many posts going forward :). Most of these points we’ve discussed at one point or another in the past years, but what i really like and will now emulate is your use of the mindmap to pull it all together. I have assorted notes on my strengths, my metaphors, my why’s and hows, etc. But I don’t have them all in one place where i can visualize them and scan them at a glance. Great approach!

  19. “Master your emotional intelligence.” JD, this is so powerful, and fitting it was the last point. People who let their emotions overrule their own intelligence are doomed for failure and to repeat failure. I see a couple people on today that could use some of this sage advice 🙂


  20. I am printing this post JD because I think this is just a wonderful list and process – a guide for me right now as I head off to take my Ethics re- Certification Exams….I am attempting to change my attitude about tests…
    Top Notch – Thank you

  21. Hi JD

    Very interesting. Is this the start of the framework that you mentioned in a comment on my blog?

    Whatever, I look forward to more.


  22. JD–marvelous.

    I have learned so much in the last couple of years as I have entered this whole owning your own business world. And wise mentors always emphasized those things to me along the way–values, your why and purpose.

    Thanks for putting those in this context.

  23. @ Vered

    Thank you. You’re right. I think keeping up with the Joneses is what creates a rat race. I think it’s all about leading your life from the inside out.

    @ Maya

    Thank you. I think living a life by design is more effective than living a life by default. At the same time, I’m not a fan of over-engineering. A little mindfulness along with some good patterns and practices go a long way. I’ll definitely elaborate on some of the key things in the future.

    @ Positively Present

    Thank you.

    @ Jason

    Thank you. It’s taken a while to figure out the most meaningful map. As I’ve helped people sort through their maps, and cut to the chase, this really seems to be the heart of what matters. It’s a durable, evolvable frame, but at the same time it’s flexible. Most importantly, it’s unique per person.

    @ Kevin

    Thank you. Emotions are a big factor. I remember my one martial arts instructor saying, “never let people push your button.” Easier said than done, but emotions can get in the way of making your best plays. Balance is key.

    @ Patricia

    Thank you. I think it’s a pluggable frame. The main parts are the branches: purpose, vision, why, how, strengths, personal success patterns, metaphors and self-awareness.

    Good luck on your exams!

    @ Juliet

    Ironically, this was more of an opportunistic post than something I really thought through. That said, I think it is shaping up to be a framework. I’ll definitely have more to say on it going forward.

    @ Christine

    Thank you.

    Your values, why and purpose are definitely among the best lenses for life.

  24. Thanks for this post, J.D.
    great timing!
    I love this one:
    Strengths. You have a lot of strengths, but this is about your top 5 that set you apart. It’s your unique voice. It’s the strengths that come so natural to you that you might not even value them as a strength. One of the keys of going from good to great is focusing on your strengths over weakness. When you focus on your strengths, you get energy and you get stronger. Passion is your key fuel for making things happen.

    thanks so much, what I needed for reassurance and focal point tonight after a sentimental setback in preparation for a growth spurt! I realized actually even from an older comment you left me that I need to recognize certain strengths more as being enough even on their own, not having to always have the extras. I don’t give myself the credit I should in some areas, like writing but it is my passion.
    You are always so encouraging!!
    take care,

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