You’re chilling at a friend’s place, watching TV, drinking some beer. Said friend is slaving over in the kitchen cooking up a storm; there were promises of steak made a few weeks ago which are finally coming to fruition.
Then, in comes the dreaded question;
“Hey, could you keep an eye on this for me?”
“Sure, but how will I know it’s done?”
“Ah, you’ll know”
Will I Dude, Will I? Are you really sure about that?
Man, I hate it; it’s ambiguous, presumptuous, and places all the responsibility on me when I’ve no idea what I’m doing. Now, when dinner is inevitably ruined, I have to live with the “Ah, don’t worry about it dude, you did your best”, knowing full well that inside you’re saying “All he had to do was flip the ****in’ steak”.
I think the idea of success, achieving one’s goals and living an extraordinary life is too one of these things that, although ambiguous, is just something we’ll know we’ve achieved when we get there. Personally, I’ve no idea what any of that looks like right now, but I’m living on a prayer, hoping that I’ll know it when I get there. I mean, it has to be more complex than being able to sort from most to least expensive on Amazon, right?
We all have this idea of where we’d like our life to bring us and all the luxuries that might come along with it. Of course, given the infinite number of possible paths our lives could potentially take, it’s unlikely that we’d just happen across one that gets us exactly where we want to be.
The go to method of overcoming this issue usually falls down to setting clear and concise goals. Physical, professional, and social changes will happen all on their own, but unless your goal is to get fatter, not make any more money and turn into a miserable hermit, you’ll likely need to intervene with things somewhat.
We’ve essentially got two types to play with; Process goals or Outcome goals.
Process goals can be described as ‘Things I want to do‘.
Outcome goals, on the other hand, are ‘Things I want to achieve‘.
“This year, I’ll go to the gym for 45 minutes, 3 times a week, doing no less than 3 sets of 5 reps in 4 base exercises” – 100% a process goal (No sign of needing to lose X lbs, here).
“By month’s end, I will have increased my year-to-date sales revenue to $100,000” – Outcome all the way (How? This is a “just get it done” kind of goal).
Admittedly, not all goals will be as clear-cut as this, and some may even have elements of both, but generally the one you chose will depend on the result you’re looking for.
If building new habits into your life or learning a new skill is the goal, a process based approach will likely be best. They put everything within your control and you don’t have to estimate or guess what results are possible.
On the other hand, outcome goals will inherently have elements to them that you can’t control. Trying to increase your sales to 100K a month is clearly outcome based, but you can do little to impact things like how much money your competitors have for advertising, how saturated the market might be or the general spending climate as a whole.
And although that might have you thinking “Well, chose a process goal then; focus on customer service, your product, and addressing the needs of the market better than anyone else, and the results will come”, which is a totally logical thing to say, but what if failing to make that elusive 100k in sales each month means to company goes bust? Last I heard was that bank repayments can’t be made with processes so really, an outcome goal is the only option.
(Side note: This is also why I hate people striving to lose a certain amounts of weight in a given time. I mean, how many of the variables that have an influence are really within your control? Why not just change your habits and choices and let the results happen. Rarely does crash dieting work at all, but when it does how often do the results stick? Not too often. Worry about the process and the results will come, something I cover in my E-book which you can pick up here).
And although there is no hard and fast rule as to when one is better than the other, I tend to think of it like this:
Process goals are great for new fields or areas of your life where you don’t yet know the base principles or structures well enough to make realistic outcome based goals; essentially when you’re looking to make changes to your habits and actions.
Outcome goals however are a great option when the success of a goal is a binary pass or fail based entirely on the fruits of your labour. If you need a specific thing to happen, then processes alone may be a waste of time if the results don’t marry up with what you need.
In summary: Although there is a time and a place for both Process and Outcome based goals, I think most rely too heavily on outcome ones, especially when processes are likely to offer higher rates of success. We all want to make specific amounts of money or get back to our pre-college body fat levels, but clawing and scratching for those results anywhere you can get them rarely yields results.
Focus on the process, the habits, and the lifestyle, of what your goals need and often the results will come far, far quicker. More often than not, consistently getting the little things right, the processes, will end up doing all the hard work for us.