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Published on March 17, 2021

Process Goal vs Outcome Goal: How To Use Them To Achieve Success

Process Goal vs Outcome Goal: How To Use Them To Achieve Success

Goals, goals, goals. Everyone’s talking about the need to set goals. It’s as if we’re expected to set goals around setting goals, otherwise we might not accomplish anything, right?

Well, yeah. Kind of.

Goal setting is an important part of getting to the life we say we want. They are the tools we can use in building that life. As with any tool, however, it’s important to know the purpose for which they’re used and techniques for using them!

There are a couple ways goal setting can be perceived. Looking from these vantage points, we get a more holistic picture of how we want to go about achieving our life successes using outcome goals and process goals.

Outcome Goal vs. Process Goal

One of the ways, known as outcome goal, is we view our goals is by knowing and stating clearly what we want. This is a “big want,” like getting a specific job or selling a house.

Another way, known as process goal, is to look at how you might go about positioning yourself for success in acquiring your “big want.” In order to get to the outcome, there will inevitably be smaller goals, or milestones, you will pass along the way. These little goals accumulate and keep you going in the direction of your outcome goal.

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To demonstrate how each of these goal viewpoints operate, let’s use the example of going to college.

The outcome goal for going to college is getting a degree. We specify which degree we want to earn and even visualize ourselves in our cap and gowns on graduation day holding the degree in the field of our choice. The goal in this case is specific and tangible.

In order to get a degree, we have to look at all the factors that go into earning one. If we want a bachelor’s degree, we will likely need to plan on being in school for around four years. Each year is divided into semesters or trimesters (depending on the school). And in each semester/trimester, there will be a handful of classes we have to take. The classes will need to be chosen depending on what the degree requirements are. And each class will have its own requirements. As you can see, getting a degree is a process that can be broken down into smaller and smaller goals.

Process goals are somewhat flexible. There are multiple ways in which you can construct your process, but the outcome goal will remain the same.

When To Focus on An Outcome Goal or A Process Goal?

Ultimately, no decision is necessary when it comes to outcome and process goals. We need them both and we need them to work together.

You have likely heard the parable about the blind men and the elephant.[1] If you haven’t, it’s definitely a good one with which to get acquainted. It basically outlines the idea that if you surrounded an elephant with blind people who had no idea what an elephant was, and you asked them each to describe the elephant to you, you would get vastly different answers as each of them would only be able to touch a small portion of the animal. If you put all of their descriptions together, you might have a complete picture.

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This is how we can think of process and outcome goals too. The outcome is the description of the elephant while to process is the sum of all the descriptions.

What Do Outcome Goals Accomplish?

“The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one’s self of the chains that shackle the spirit.”

This was great advice from 20th century composer Igor Stravinsky that we can apply to goal setting as well. What Mr. Stravinsky was suggesting is that we are more creative when we have fewer options.

Imagine yourself walking down the cereal aisle. There are dozens, maybe hundreds of cereals staring back at you. How do you choose?

You remember that your doctor has just told you that you need to cut down on your sugar intake. Bummer. At the same time, you now have a constraint that you can use for choosing a cereal. Now you can focus only on the cereals that don’t have refined sugar as an ingredient. You begin looking at cereals you never before noticed! This makes it easier to narrow in on which cereal appeals most under the constraint you have been given. And you’re able to do this because your outcome goal was to stop eating sugar.

Because outcome goals are so specific, they help us clarify what direction we want to go in life. Without an outcome goal, life can lack meaning. And without meaning, there’s no reason to get out of bed and put pants one every day. A lot of people felt this way during the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. Remember that?

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What Do Process Goals Accomplish?

Once settled on a desired outcome, now we can decide how we want to achieve it. Think of it like choosing a road trip destination. Once you know where you’re going, you can then map out which roads you want to take.

The process goal is less specific than the outcome, although as the name implies, it sets up a process.

Let’s go back to the college degree analogy. You decide that you want to become a doctor (outcome goal).

There is a step-by-step process to becoming a doctor that outlines all of the things you need to do along the way (process). One of the first steps is to get a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Which one? And what do you major in? Those are choices you get to make along the way, and no choice is more correct than another. Choosing which medical school you want to attend is another step in the process. Again, there’s choice involved!

Sometimes there may be elements that are not completely in your control. For example, you might not be accepted to your first-choice medical school. Does that mean you can’t become a doctor? Nope. You just have to apply to multiple schools. That might be a slightly different path than you wanted, but the outcome goal will still be within your reach.

Again, process goals are not so rigid. They set up directions on how to get to your desired outcome, but your process doesn’t have to look the same as anyone else’s.

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Another benefit of process goals is that they can reduce overwhelm and anxiety that could come with contemplating a big outcome goal. Process goals break down the larger goal into bite size pieces. They help us focus on one task at a time while reassuring us that each step adds another drop into the bucket of accomplishing the outcome goal.

What If You Don’t Know What You Want?

One of the biggest challenges for anyone to face is not knowing what they want. It can be nearly impossible to figure out your process if you don’t know what you want your outcome to be.

If this is the case, consider making your new outcome goal be to figure out your outcome goal. Then, you get to decide on the process for how you want to discover what you want your outcome goal to be.

Some ways to sort through this process might include:

Final Thoughts

The only certain thing in life is the uncertainty of life. And yet, as human beings, we work toward some measure of certainty by deciding on big goals and then filling our time with accomplishing all the little goals in the process that lead us to the final destination.

Obstacles will likely arise. But as long as your process allows for small detours, you will be as certain as you can possibly be that you will achieve your overall outcome.

As much as it may be bothersome to hear that goals are a necessary part of life, they certainly do help us get stuff done. Perhaps it would be helpful to notice how you naturally set goals for yourself without thinking about it. For instance, an outcome goal you might have right now is to develop a success mindset. Well, congratulations, because you just completed a small process goal by reading this article!

More About Goal Setting

Featured photo credit: Ante Hamersmit via unsplash.com

Reference

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Tess Miller

Life transition coach who helps professionals who love what they do but aren't sure where it's going

Process Goal vs Outcome Goal: How To Use Them To Achieve Success 8 Greatest Obstacles In Life You Must Overcome To Be Successful Small Victories: 4 Reasons To Celebrate Small Wins

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Last Updated on April 14, 2021

What Are SMART Goals (and How to Use Them to Be Successful)

What Are SMART Goals (and How to Use Them to Be Successful)

As a track and field runner in school, every year I would sit down with my coach and set a series of goals for the season. Once we had set my goals for the year, we would create a training plan so I could achieve those targets. This helped me answer the main question here: “What are SMART goals?”

Before I got a coach, I used to run aimlessly with no plan, no target races. More often than not, I would end up injured and find my season ending after achieving very little.

Once I got a coach, though, I started winning races that mattered and began enjoying my sport. This annual process taught me from a very early age that goals are important if I want to achieve the things that are important to me.

So what exactly are SMART goals? This article will talk about why goals matter, how to use SMART goals effectively with your time and resources, and how these goals give you a clear, specific plan that works time and time again.

Why Do People Fail to Reach Their Goals?

Setting SMART goals and achieving them

is not easy, and many people fail. A study by Scranton University found that only 8% of those who set New Year goals actually achieve them, meaning 92% who set new year goals fail[1].

The problem is that many people see goals, such as New Year resolutions, as hopes and wishes. They hope they will lose some weight, they wish to start their own business, or they hope to get a better job. The problem with “hoping” and “wishing” for something is that there is no plan, no purpose, and no time frame set for achieving the goals.

Once these hopes and wishes come face-to-face with the realities of daily life, they soon dissolve into lost hopes and wishful thinking.

Therefore, in order to really achieve something, you need a concrete goal: a SMART goal.

What Are SMART Goals?

The foundation of all successfully accomplished goals is the SMART goal.

Originally conceived by George T. Doran in a 1981 paper[2], this formula has been used in various forms ever since.

SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based. It has been used by corporations and individuals to achieve their goals and objectives and is a formula that, on the whole, works well.

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Use SMART goals to help you achieve more.

    The strength of SMART goals is that they set a clear path to achieving goals, and they have a clear time frame in which to achieve them. Let’s look at the SMART criteria in a little more detail:

    Specific

    For a goal to be achievable, it needs to have a very clear outcome. What you are asking is, “What exactly do I want to achieve?” The clearer the goal, the more likely it is you will achieve it.

    For example, if you just say “I want to lose weight,” then technically you could achieve your goal just by not eating dinner for one day—you would lose weight that way, even if it were temporary.

    You need to have a more specific goal: “I want to lose twenty-pounds by the end of July this year.”

    Measurable

    To achieve anything, it’s important to have measurable goals. T

    ake the example above: “I want to lose twenty-pounds by the end of July this year.”

    It’s measurable, as all you need do is weigh yourself on 1 January, then deduct twenty-pounds from that and set that weight as the target for 31 July. Then, each week you weigh yourself to measure progress.

    Attainable

    Being attainable means that SMART goals are realistic and that you have what you need in order to achieve them.

    In our example of losing weight, 20 pounds in six months is certainly doable. Your resources could include a gym membership, some at-home weights, or simply motivation to get outside and run everyday.

    If motivation is an area where you struggle, you can check out Lifehack’s Ultimate Worksheet for Instant Motivation Boost.

    Relevant

    For any goal to be achieved, you need to set relevant goals for your unique life.

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    If losing weight is doable with the lifestyle you have, and if you believe it will lead to a happier, healthier life, then it is certainly relevant to you. It’s even more relevant if your doctor has pointed out that you need to lose weight to prevent health issues.

    Time-based

    Finally, you need a timeline. All your goals need to have an end date because it creates a sense of urgency and gives you a deadline.

    In our example of losing twenty-pounds, a timeline of six months would be specific, measurable, relevant, and would have a timeline. Furthermore, as you have what you need to achieve that goal, it is attainable—all elements of the formula for SMART goals are included.

    How to Reach a SMART Goal

    The problem I have always found with the SMART goal formula is it does not take into account the human factor. We need motivation and a reason for achieving these goals.

    If you decide to lose twenty-pounds, for example, you are going to spend many months feeling hungry, and unless you possess superhuman mental strength, you are going to give in to the food temptations.

    All SMART goals can be distilled down to three words:

    • What do you want to achieve?
    • Why do you want to achieve it?
    • How are you going to achieve it?

    When you simplify your goal in this way, achieving it becomes much easier.

    1. Visualize What You Want

    One way to make your goals achievable is to visualize the end result. When you write out your mission statement, you should be imagining what it will be like once you have achieved the goal.

    In our weight loss example, you would close your eyes and imagine walking down from your hotel room in Ibiza in July with your towel, sunscreen, sunglasses, and swimwear on. You would imagine walking past all the other sunbathers and the feeling you have, the pride in the way you look and feel.

    Try to invoke as many of the five senses as you possibly can[3].

    2. Identify Your “Why”

    If you take losing twenty-pounds as an example, once you have made the decision that you want to do this, the next question to ask yourself is, “Why?” The more personal your why, the better.

    Your why could be, “Because I want to look and feel fantastic by the pool in Ibiza this summer.” That is a strong why.

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    If your why is, “Because my doctor told me to lose some weight,” that is not a good why because it’s your doctor’s, not yours.

    One way to identify your “why” is to write your mission statement.

    To help with setting achievable SMART goals, when working with my clients, I always ask them to complete the following mission statement:

    I will [STATE GOAL CLEARLY] by [DATE YOU WANT TO COMPLETE THE GOAL] because [YOUR WHY].

    If you want to write a SMART goal for the weight loss example, your mission statement would be written: “I will lose twenty-pounds by the end of July this year because I want to look and feel fantastic by the pool in Ibiza.”

    Never write a mission statement that is full of vague words. The words you use should be simple, direct, and clear.

    3. Figure out Your “How”

    Before you can begin achieving your goal, you need to create a list of steps you can take to make it happen.

    Write down everything you can think of that will help achieve your goal. It doesn’t matter what order you write these tasks down; what matters is that you write down as many action steps you can think of.

    I always aim for around one hundred small steps. This makes it much easier to assign tasks for each day that not only moves you forward on your goal, but also keeps you focused every day on achieving it.

    Once you have your list, you can create a to-do list for the goal and allocate the steps to different days so you create momentum towards a successful outcome.

    You can learn more about how to use SMART goals to achieve success and lasting change in this video:

    Bonus: Make a PACT

    There is one more part needed to really make sure you achieve the SMART goals you set for yourself, and that is something I call PACT. PACT is another acronym meaning Patience, Action, Consistency, and Time. You need all four of these to achieve goals.

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    Patience

    Without patience, you will give up. To achieve anything worthwhile requires patience. Success does not happen overnight. Be patient and enjoy the process of stepping a little closer towards achieving your goal each day.

    Action

    If you do not take action on any goal, then even SMART goals won’t be achieved. You need to make sure you remind yourself of your goal and why you want to achieve it each day. Read your mission statement, make an action plan, and then take the necessary action to make sure you move a step closer each day.

    Consistency

    The action you take each day towards achieving your goal needs to be consistent. You can’t follow your diet program for a week and then have three weeks off. Jim Rohn said it perfectly when he said:

    “Success is a few simple disciplines practised every day.”

    Time

    Of course, you need to allow enough time between where you are today and where you want to be in the future. Be realistic about time, and don’t get disheartened if you miss your deadline. Readjust your timeline if necessary.

    The Bottom Line

    The key to success is to put everything together. When you connect all of these elements, you create an environment where achieving SMART goals becomes much more attainable.

    Whether it’s personal or business goals, when you have a strong personal “why” for your goal, your motivation to keep going stays strong.

    Start with your “why,” and then get started on the action steps that will take you all the way to the end.

    More Tips on Reaching Your Goals

    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

    Reference

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