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Last Updated on May 13, 2021

Process Goal vs Outcome Goal: How to Use Them for Success

Process Goal vs Outcome Goal: How to Use Them for Success
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Everyone’s talking about the need to achieving goals and how to set goals: a long-term goal, short-term goal, process goal, outcome goal. It’s as if we’re expected to set goals around setting goals; otherwise, we might not accomplish anything, right?

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 to use them correctly.

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

With an outcome goal, we view our goals by knowing and stating clearly what we want. This is a “big want,” like getting a specific job or selling a house.

A process goal focuses on 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.

To demonstrate how each of these goals operates and you would go about reaching your goal, 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 gown on graduation day, holding the degree in the field of our choice. The goal in this case is specific and tangible.

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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.

A process goal is 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 an outcome or process goal. 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]. 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.

This is how we can think of process and outcome goals, too. The outcome is the description of the elephant while the process goal is the sum of all the descriptions. A process goal will, unsurprisingly, focus on the process and performance that will help you achieve your outcome goal.

What Do Outcome Goals Accomplish?

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

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, and the choice feels impossible.

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 on every day.

What Do Process Goals Accomplish?

Once you’re settled on a desired outcome, you can decide how you 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. This can help you avoid procrastination as process goals feel more obtainable than outcome goals. If you struggle with procrastination, you can also check out Lifehack’s Fast Track Class – No More Procrastination.

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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 university will you go to, and what will you major in? Those are choices you get to make along the way, and no choice is more correct than another.

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. That doesn’t mean you can’t become a doctor; you just have to apply to multiple schools as part of the goal setting process. That might be a slightly different path than you wanted, but the outcome goal will still be within your reach.

Again, a process goal is 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.

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 figuring 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.

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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 leads us to the final destination.

Obstacles will likely arise, but as long as your process goal 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. 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

[1] American Literature: The Blind Men and the Elephant

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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

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Last Updated on July 25, 2021

A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success

A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success
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If there was a rule book of life, there would be one particular page that was highlighted, underlined, and titled as most important. It would be the one which told you that you need to master effective goal setting and have an aim in mind before you get on with the process. While there may not be an actual rule book of life, we do have this helpful goal setting guide to offer.

Yes, goal setting is important. In fact, it’s more important than achieving the goal itself. This is because it is the sense of direction that is needed for you to fulfill any task in life.

You don’t have to feel overwhelmed if this sounds new to you, as all the following information has you covered.

Today, you’ll find out all about the importance of goal setting, types of goals, and tips to define realistic goals for yourself!

What Are Goals?

To kick off our goal setting guide, you need to first recognize what goals are and how they are different from objectives, dreams, and expectations.

A goal is essentially your aim for the long-term future. It is the bigger umbrella, the main focus.

Objectives, on the other hand, fall under the umbrella of goals. They are the stepping stones that help you achieve your goals[1].

Objects vs goals for goal setting tips

    For example, you may decide you want to learn a new language. Your goal is to be fluent in the new language. Everything you do to achieve this goal, such as the daily tasks and monthly learning aims, are the objectives.

    Similarly, your expectations, visions, and dreams are not your goals. If you wish to learn a new language someday, that is your dream. If you see yourself fluently speaking multiple foreign languages, that is your vision. If you think you’re capable of learning a new language, that is your expectation.

    However, if you aim to fulfill these visions, dreams, and expectations practically, that is your goal.

    Why Is Goal Setting Important?

    Why should you bother with goal setting at all? Wouldn’t it be more convenient to just get on with your daily objectives, follow a dream or vision, and let life take you wherever?

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    While that road can feel exciting and spontaneous, if you actually want to tick off things from your list of goals to achieve, learning how to set goals is necessary.

    Being committed to a goal puts your brain to work in one specific direction. Believe it or not, by having a defined goal, your brain does its magic unconsciously, 24/7, with full efficiency, to achieve the desired results[2].

    Goal setting is important to shift your focus, boost your motivation, and give you a sense of direction. Without formally defining a particular aim that you want to reach, you won’t be able to keep your objectives in line.

    Hence, this one tiny step can end up saving you a lot of hassle and time while also encouraging your productivity.

    Types of Goals

    Before we move onto the technique of setting effective goals, we need to first take a look at all types of goals in this goal setting tips.

    These categories will not just help you brainstorm new one for yourself, but it will also guide you to list them down in the right way.

    Time-Based

    One of the two broad categories of goals is based on time. These goals define how far in the future you want to achieve them.

    Daily

    There are certain smaller goals that you can easily achieve in a day or two. In fact, some of these daily goals can be recurring, too. For example, you may want to run for an hour every morning.

    Now, these daily goals can also serve as objectives for a long-term goal. You may be running every day because, in the long-term, you want to increase your stamina.

    Daily goals are highly effective for people who want to improve their mental wellbeing, time management skills, and stress management.

    Short-Term

    Next in line are short-term goals. As you would have already guessed, goal setting in this area is aimed at the near future.

    The great thing about these is that they are generally easier to achieve. This is because short-term goals are set for the foreseeable future. You are aware of the circumstances and have a general idea of how much the situation can change.

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    Just like daily goals, short-term goals may also serve as objectives for a long-term goal. Your short-term goal may be to lose 5 pounds in one month. That could be a goal in itself, or maybe it is just one objective to fulfill your goal to adopt a healthy lifestyle in the next two years.

    Another example of a short-term goal is to fulfill the checklist for promotion within the next 6 months. Or, you may want to reduce your screen time within the coming week.

    Long-Term

    Lastly, we have long-term goals that are meant to be completed over a stretched period.

    Whatever you want to achieve in a later stage of life is a long-term goal. An insurance plan, for example, is a long-term goal.

    Some long-term goals don’t have any time frame at all. They are goals that you want to accomplish at some point in your life. So, something like traveling the whole world is a lifelong goal with no specific time constraint at all.

    There’s one thing about long-term goals that isn’t great.

    They are the hardest to keep up with since you’re not seeing any huge achievements regularly. This may take a toll on your motivation. To tackle this problem, it is best to divide a long-term goal into various, short-term and daily objectives so that you’re always tracking the progress you’re making.

    Life-Based

    Moving forward, you can also start goal setting based on the results you want to achieve instead of the time period.

    Career

    Like most people, you will likely want to succeed and excel in your career. Anything that has to do with this intention, regardless of the time frame, is a career goal. These are usually measurable goals, such as receiving a promotion within two years, finding a job at a certain company within the next six months, etc.

    You can learn more about how to set successful career goals here.

    Personal

    The past few years have all been about emphasizing your personal health. So, when it comes to goals, how can we forget the ones that have to do with our personal gains?

    From health to finances to relationships, everything that brings you happiness and composure as a person is a personal goal. It’s important that these are realistic and attainable goals for your life.

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    Whether you want to get rid of your debt, quit smoking, start a side hustle, have children, or travel the world, all of these goals are personal and very important to have on your list.

    How to Set Goals

    The best way to guarantee the fulfillment of goals is to set them the right way.

    1. Use SMART Goals

    Every goal you define has to be SMART[3].

    SMART stands for:

    • Specific
    • Measurable
    • Attainable
    • Relevant
    • Time-Bound

    In summary, your specific goals should be very well defined. They shouldn’t be generic or broad, and every detail should be clarified as you’re goal setting. 

    If you want to start running, how often do you want to do it? How long will each session be? For how long will you continue this habit?

    There has to be a connection between your goals and beliefs or you’ll never be able to achieve the results you want. Most importantly, do not be unrealistic. You cannot learn to fly, and forcing yourself to try is only going to demotivate and stress you out.

    2. Prioritize Your Goals

    As you’re looking into how to write goals for the next month or year, it’s likely you’ll come up with more than one. In this case, it’s important to prioritize which are the most important or the ones that have the tightest deadline. This is going to be subjective, as only you know which goals will have the most impact on your life.

    3. Think of Those Around You

    As you’re working on goal setting, keep your loved ones in mind. You may have a partner, children, or employees that depend on you, and you should take them into consideration with your goals. For example, if you set a goal to travel to 10 different countries in the next two years, how will this affect your children?

    If you want to lose 30 pounds this year, is there something your partner can do to support you? S/he will need to be made aware of this before you set off on your weight loss journey.

    4. Take Action

    Setting goals is the first step, but in order to be successful, you have to follow this with action. If you set goals but never act on them, they become dreams. Create an action plan laying out the steps you need to take each day or week in order to achieve your big and small goals.

    You can also check out Lifehack’s free guide: The Dreamers’ Guide for Taking Action and Making Goals Happen. This helpful guide will push you to take action on your goals, so check it out today!

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    5. Don’t Forget the Bigger Picture

    Most people refer to the big picture as their vision. Whether it is the long-term result or the connection of the goal with your desire, keep it in mind to keep yourself from getting distracted.

    You can learn more about creating a vision for your life here.

    I also recommend you to watch this video to learn 7 strategies to set goals effectively:

    How to Reach Your Goals

    You can ensure your progress by following some foolproof tactics. The use of relevant helpful tools can also keep you on the right track.

    Tactics

    One rookie mistake that most people make is that they work on too many goals simultaneously. Create an action plan and focus on one thing at a time.

    Divide your goal into smaller, easily achievable tasks. Taking it one step at a time makes it much easier. However, do not break them down too much. For example, for long-term goals, you should go for weekly checkpoints instead of daily ones.

    Also, keep track of your progress. This will keep you motivated to work harder.

    Tools

    With so many categories of goals and so many aims, it is almost impossible to remember, let alone work, on all of them.

    Luckily, numerous goal tracker apps will help you keep track of your goals, as well as your plan to achieve every single one. Have at least one installed in your smartphone so that your plan is always within reach.

    The Bottom Line

    In conclusion, using a goal setting tips guide is not rocket science. All that it takes is strong will power along with all the knowledge that you’ve learned so far.

    Try out the tactics and goals setting tips mentioned above to be able to set successful goals so that you can achieve the life that you want!

    More Tips on Achieving Success

    Featured photo credit: Danielle MacInnes via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Smart Insights: The difference between marketing objectives and marketing goals?
    [2] Confluence: Goal Setting Theory
    [3] University of California: SMART Goals: A How-To Guide

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