Goal setting

Goals – Part Two: Think Process, Not Outcome

This Part Two of the article on goals describes how when we focus on the process, the outcome will take care of itself.

As noted in Part One of this article, our society is extremely focused on goals – specifically, the end result or outcome. As a result, we often define ourselves based on whether we achieved that specific outcome. When we don’t – regardless of why – it’s often a blow to our self-perception.

Once you’ve defined your goal in a SMART way (specific, measurable, attractive, realistic and timely), it’s tempting to focus solely on that wonderful future outcome. The problem, however, with this focus is that it soon develops into an enormous burden – one that takes your mindset out of the present moment and into one that says “I’m not good enough now, but I will be when I [fill in the blank].”

The alternative is to commit to the processes necessary to achieve the goal – not the end goal itself. Here are some examples:

A runner sets a goal to complete a marathon. Her process is to follow the training plan laid out by her coach each week until race day.

A writer’s goal is to complete a novel. His process is to write one chapter per day following the outline he laid out initially.

For a person with a goal to lose 10 pounds of body fat, processes would include activities such as drinking 9 to 12 cups of water each day, weighing and measuring foods, and weekly meal planning.

So why focus on the process and not the end goal?

Processes give you permission to enjoy the present moment. Rather than a huge, life-changing goal, you keep things simple by committing to a daily process and schedule. Just for today, do this, and feel the resulting sense of achievement.

Processes take away the goal’s illusion that you can control everything. We plan, strategize and predict our future progress, but there will always be circumstances beyond our control that show up along the way.

Processes become habits that outlast the end goal. They become an integral part of our routine, ensuring future progress long after the outcome-based goal is reached.

Tips for focusing on the process:

Concentrate on consciously completing the process, one day at a time.

Let go of worrying about what other people think.

Reward yourself each day for remaining committed to the process.

If you can’t seem to remain committed to a particular process, don’t consider it a failure – instead, revise the process so you can stick with it. This is what’s known as a “feedback loop” – if it works, keep doing it, and if it doesn’t, make changes.

Writer James Clear says that “goals are good for planning your progress, and systems [i.e. processes] are good for actually making progress. Committing to the process is what makes the difference.”

What processes can you implement to make progress toward your goal each day?

I’d love the opportunity to help you establish processes to reach your health and fitness goals. Contact me and let’s get you started today!

Laurie Kelly, CPT, CES is a Fitness and Nutrition Coach who works with clients virtually to help them transform their health and fitness. She takes a holistic approach to her clients’ wellness through strength training, cardiovascular exercise, real life/behavior-based nutrition strategies and recovery techniques. She’ll work with you one-on-one to help you live a healthy and active life and achieve your unique fitness goals. Contact her here or follow her blog at www.dragonfly-fitness.com.


Author James Clear writes about habits and decision-making, and science-based tips on self-improvement. Follow him at www.jamesclear.com.

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