Set Process Goals, Not Outcome Goals

Outcome goal: Lose 10 lbs.

Process goal: Stick to the Low Carb Diet for 60 days.

I’ve been reading a lot lately about how systems are more important than goals. I wrote about it a month ago here, inspired by this James Clear article. And again today, I read the same advice on Eric Barker’s blog. I copy and pasted the goals section from the post


Have A System, Not A Goal

This is such a powerful distinction. Losing 20lbs is a goal, eating right is a system. Which one do you think provides a better path to success?

Via How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life:

…one should have a system instead of a goal. The system-versus-goals model can be applied to most human endeavors. In the world of dieting, losing twenty pounds is a goal, but eating right is a system. In the exercise realm, running a marathon in under four hours is a goal, but exercising daily is a system. In business, making a million dollars is a goal, but being a serial entrepreneur is a system.

A system provides a method and requires activity on a regular basis. That’s how successful people operate.

Via How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life:

For our purposes, let’s agree that goals are a reach-it-and-be-done situation, whereas a system is something you do on a regular basis with a reasonable expectation that doing so will get you to a better place in your life. Systems have no deadlines, and on any given day you probably can’t tell if they’re moving you in the right direction. My proposition is that if you study people who succeed, you will see that most of them follow systems, not goals…

Oliver Burkeman pointed out research that made a very similar distinction in my interview with him:

The best thing to do is to set process goals rather than outcome goals. Stop telling yourself you’re going to write the great American novel, and tell yourself you’re going to do 500 words a day. Step back from focusing on the outcome and focus on process.


3 thoughts on “Set Process Goals, Not Outcome Goals

  1. I love this! What a great new way to view your goals, as a process. This is going to help tremendously in the way I start setting up my new goals for 2014!

  2. This is a great way to look at things. It’s similar to how I started my gym habit.

    Instead of saying I want to gain X-amount of muscle, I simply said I was going to SHOW UP. Just go. Be there. If anything, just drive to the gym and leave — at least you made it. But don’t tell me that you didn’t feel guilty leaving the parking lot watching those people sweat their asses off.

  3. Pingback: Don’t Fail Your New Year’s Resolutions Just Yet | SMART GOALS | Goal Setting App for iPhone

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