The variation of functional performance seen in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is perplexing. Some patients appear to do well in their day-to-day activities, while others, with the same apparent disease severity, have difficulty. This naturalistic inquiry sought to describe functional performance from the perspective of 12 people with COPD. Thematic analysis was used to identify activities in which these men and women were engaged and the way they perceived activities, symptoms, and treatments within the context of their daily lives. Decisions to perform activities were influenced by a sense of deriving satisfaction, weighed against the discomfort that might occur. Intruders and enablers influenced activity performance. The results of this study provide a useful framework for assessing functional performance and developing interventions that are sensitive to patient values and expectations and that have a greater likelihood of improving life quality.