Goals. I can almost hear you screaming, “Oh no! Another article on goal-setting? Enough already.”
Well, yes and no.
I’m not going to discuss how to set them as such, but I will look at why setting them is so critically important to achieving success in any endeavour and I will also briefly discuss two classes of goals and why it is good to know the difference between them.
Why are they so important?
When you set a goal, you are making a commitment, either to yourself or to the world at large. You are setting a clear intention to do or achieve something. You should set them with great care. How you set and handle your goals says a lot about your character, resilience and mental toughness. Some people set them and fail repeatedly, yet carry on until they get their big win. Certain people fail once or twice then give up entirely. Other people never try anything at all. Some people go all in for the big prize whilst others are in it for the long-haul. There are many variations. By the way, I will talk more about measuring success and failure and other key goal related factors in other articles.
Goals and goal- setting work
The key message I want to put across here is that, all other things being equal, forming well-conceived and well-designed goals will give you a far better chance of success than not having goals at all.
We humans are easily distracted creatures. We will wander off track. Having a compelling goal gives us something to come back to when we wander, like scuba divers might use a safety line to guide them to a shipwreck then back up to the dive boat again. If we don’t have a goal we could end up anywhere. Some people are happy to drift through life like this but I’m not. I create goals for myself.
I firmly believe in and follow the tenet, “If you want to get ahead get a goal.”
Process goals & outcome goals
There are two classes of goals I want to mention now, namely outcome and process.
Most large goals employ both classes at various times but, I believe it is important to know the difference between them and when to use each one most effectively.
Outcome goals have a defined result or target to be achieved, often within a clearly specified period. I am writing this on New Year’s Day, so it is apt because outcome goals are the ones we are all familiar with. We generally form our new year resolutions using outcome goals. They can be very powerful, but they can also carry within them the seeds of their own failure. With the very best of intentions, we all tend to set very lofty, large and distant targets, and this puts immediate pressure on us.
For example, “I’m going to work out and lose 20 Kg in weight by the start of the summer holidays and I mean it this year, no excuses.” It has solid intention but there is no clear route to follow. As I mentioned, we humans are easily distracted. The first setback often becomes a terminal block and we feel down because we gave up. Better luck next year.
A process goal is a one where the aim is to complete certain activities or actions on a regular basis for a specified amount of time. There is no expected result as such but because you will follow a regular and repeated process you will gain your successes and results along the way.
An example might be, “I am going to go to the gym and work out for an average of 3 times a week for the next 6 months.” There is flexibility here and options for catch-up if obstacles are encountered. There might be any number of outcomes, both positive and negative. Through following this process you will discover them as you work out for the 6 months. When the 6 months is up you can look back and compare your before and after status if you need an outcome assessment. Your focus will be on taking as much control as possible over the process itself and how you follow it rather than on a distant goal which you may or may not achieve.
It might look like I’m down on outcome goals. Not at all. They each have their merits when designed well and used appropriately. They each have drawbacks which need to be accounted for.
The best option?
I won’t recommend a “this is the one you need” method because everyone is different. I tend to adopt process goals for my far-reaching plans. This promotes the formation of (usually) beneficial habits and long-term positive changes. For example, “I intend to go for at least one walk every day for the coming year.” I tend to use outcome goals for specific time-critical steps which need to be achieved to help facilitate the process goals. For example, “I will redesign my entire business calendar and course schedule by the end of the first week in January to enable 1 hour of walking time to be available every day.”
Experiment with both types. When you find a method which works for you, stick to it and thrive.
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