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Setting Goals - Outcome Goals and Process Goals

By Edited Feb 20, 2016 1 4

When setting goals, both outcome and process goals are important

Setting goals is an important activity, but they need to be the right kind of goals. Outcome goals and process goals are two different types of goals that can be applied to many areas of life. They are both important and necessary. It is hard to accomplish an outcome goal without having process goals to help you achieve them.

Outcome goals tell others what you want to do. Process goals tell them how you are going to accomplish what you want. The big picture is an outcome goal, but the details are defined in the process goals. Here are some examples of how you can employ outcome goals and process goals to accomplish your dreams.

Setting Goals: Get Out of Debt

Getting out of debt is a goal that many people have. But just stating "getting out of debt" as a goal is an outcome based goal. It is a worthy goal and one that would be admirable to achieve. However, just stating the goal does not set in place the steps of how you will accomplish getting out of debt.

"I will pay an extra $56 a month on my Big Box Store credit card each month." That is an example of a process goal. Here are a few more to get you started with setting process goals to get out of debt.

  • I will purposefully skip getting coffee at the coffee shop one day a week and put the $6 I save towards my credit cards.
  • Once a month we will not go out to eat on Sunday afternoon and put the $45 saved towards an emergency fund.
  • In 2 months when the first credit card is paid off we will put the money that was going towards that card on the next card along with what we were paying previously.

Setting Goals: Lose Weight and Get in Shape

An outcome goal that many have is to lose weight. That is what they want, but they don't state how they will do that. A process goal is the how to get the what.

  • I will commit to walking Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons for at least 30 minutes before going home from work.
  • Three days a week I will bring a healthy lunch to work with me instead of going out or eating at the office cafeteria.
  • I know I always order the cheeseburger with fries on Friday nights with my friends, but I commit to a chicken sandwich instead.

Setting Goals: Get a Better Education

Many have the outcome goal to get a better education. They keep saying they will get their GED or go back to college when certain things are taken care of. But the outcome is not going to happen without the process. In this case, there may honestly be things limiting the person from going back to school. A set of process goals can make getting a better education a reality.

  • I will talk to my boss about working full-time instead of part-time so that she will change my schedule to days.
  • I will save $85 from each paycheck between now and the next semester so I can register for the class I need.
  • I will spend 4 hours a week studying for the GED exam.

Setting Goals: Get a Better Job

The goal is to get a better job, but how? What is the process? Write down specific steps that it will take to accomplish the task of getting a better job. A secondary line of questions that may help you set process based goals is to determine why you want a better job. Is it to make more money, or get away from a certain co-worker? Having specific reasons and understanding behind your outcome goals will help you set process goals.

  • I will make 15 more cold calls a week to sell my company's product.
  • A commission percentage increase will come by selling $5000 more per month. I will sell at least $1250 more per week.
  • I will read at least one book per month on dealing with difficult people.
  • I will write a rough draft for my resume by this weekend.

Setting Goals: Run a Marathon

Any runner will tell you that you don't just get out of bed and decide on race morning that you want to run a marathon. Running over 26 miles at a time is something that requires training. Crossing the finish line is the outcome. Getting up extra early 5 days a week to train is the process.

  • This week I will research and find the marathon I want to run and the training program I will use.
  • I will follow the training program I have chosen.
  • I will work with my coach to hold me accountable to the plan he has in place for my race.
  • Log every run in my running log.

Setting Goals: Outcome and Process Based Goals

Outcome goals usually take care of themselves when you focus on the process goals. Losing weight and getting in shape is a by-product of eating better and exercising more. There is not as much of a need to focus on the outcome (lose weight and get in shape) as there is the process. Process goals should be monitored regularly. These are the ones that should be posted on your bathroom mirror and computer monitor. You need to be reminded daily of the process so you can achieve the outcome.

Setting outcome goals without process goals can lead to failure and disappointment. Paying off $25,000 in debt is a huge task. Thinking of the outcome of having it paid off is inspiring, but thinking about how far you have to go to get to where you want to be can be depressing. That is where process goals come to the rescue. Those incremental steps of paying an extra $56 per month to knock out one bill is the process that is achievable. In the end the $25,000 won't seem so impossible.

Outcome goals are the big things in life we want to accomplish. The processes that help us get there are the goals we can work on every day. Loosing weight (the outcome) does not require running an IronMan Triathlon. However, the process (exercising more each week) may lead us there.

Setting goals are important. Are you setting the right kind of goals?



Jan 16, 2011 8:09am
Very true - "both outcome and process goals are important'. Thanks for this inspiring article.
Jan 16, 2011 10:50am
Thanks LoveSpaces. I heard someone talking about these types of goals the other day. I had never heard of outcome vs. process goals. I enjoyed looking into it.
Jan 16, 2011 4:55pm
You're really quick!
Jan 17, 2011 5:49pm
It was a really good topic. I enjoyed learning about it. Intuitively, I knew there were different kinds of goals, but I couldn't figure out what made some more obtainable than others. Hearing the explanation was a eye opener.
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