The Fantastic Life

Honor the Process


For a number of years, I have been coaching, teaching and talking about The Process.  Here are few sayings I use:
“Honor. The. Process.” 
    – University of Arizona Basketball team

“The Process is Fearless” 
Joe Madden, the coach of the World Champion Chicago Cubs
I decided to look more into where this phrase came from after reading a NYT article about Nick Saban, University of Alabama football coach.
Turns out, Coach Saban stole the concept from a psychiatrist Aaron Beck, who wrote about it in the 1960’s. Here is a quick summary:

  • Process Thinking is a philosophy that prioritizes a gritty mindset and hard work over results.
  • The fundamental belief is that good mental habits are systematically built up one step at a time.
  • The Process doesn’t affect one aspect of your life — it is all encompassing.
  • The Process is not about winning or losing, it is about The Process.

I love this concept even more now that I have done a bit of research. I hope you can live The Process as well.

Rule #16 from my book The Fantastic Life: Don’t Waste Time 
Honoring the process means getting rid of things that are sucking away your time, to things that contribute to the process. Hard work, practice, and perseverance are all part of the process. Wasting time is not.



Process Thinking

Process thinking, also known as “the process” is a philosophy that emphasizes preparation and hard work over consideration of outcomes or results, and is particularly popular in professional sports.Practitioners of process thinking focus on the present instead of past events or future outcomes, and believe that all actions one takes in life, regardless of how trivial they may seem, affect the desired outcome. The philosophy was popularized by American football coach Nick Saban.


The step-by-step mechanism of process thinking is a prominent part of cognitive behavioral thinking, which was developed by psychiatrist Aaron Beck. In the 1960s, Beck developed a therapy which relies on the idea that thoughts affect feelings, and that good mental habits are systematically built up one step at a time.

Use in Coaching
“Don’t think about winning the SEC Championship. Don’t think about the national championship. Think about what you needed to do in this drill, on this play, in this moment. That’s the process: Let’s think about what we can do today, the task at hand.” – Nick Saban

Nick Saban formulated process thinking as it pertains to American football with the help of psychiatry professor Lionel Rosen while Saban was the head coach at Michigan State UniversitySaban and Rosen broke down complicated tasks like football games—and entire seasons—down into smaller, more manageable pieces. Rosen emphasized that the average football play lasts only seven seconds so coaches and players should concentrate only on those seconds, take a rest between plays, then do it all over again. 

During his time with LSU, the Miami Dolphins, and later the University of Alabama, Saban refined this systematic approach and extended it to include all aspects of managing a football program, which he calls “the process.” A key element of Saban’s process, often stylized “The Process” is clearly defined expectations for his players not only on the field, but also academically and personally (including a dress code), which are monitored year-round.

Nick Saban’s Process featured in Ryan Holiday‘s The Obstacle Is the Way, where it drew comparisons to Stoic philosophy. Saban has led his teams to numerous conference championships and five national championships, four of them with Alabama. Much of the credit for Saban’s sustained success has been given to the Process.

Other coaches, players and general managers such as GM of the Philadelphia 76ers Sam Hinkie, head coach of the Chicago Bears John FoxFlorida State Seminoles football coach Jimbo Fisher and University of Texas head basketball coach Shaka Smart have also asked their teams to “follow the process.”

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