Are You Focused on Outcomes or Behaviors?

Goals Are Outcomes

From a young age, we’ve been taught the importance of goal setting. Goals are a wonderful thing. They give us something to work for, and tell us where we want to be. I think it’s a great practice to spend time reflecting on our goals and clearly defining them. But after we set our goals, what’s next? How do we get there? What’s the next step?

Goals are important, but they’re a picture of the finish line. They’re not all that helpful in isolation, unless we also develop a plan for how we’re going to achieve them. So what’s a plan? In it’s most basic form, a plan is a set of clearly defined behaviors. Essentially, it’s the behaviors that get us to the finish line, not the goal itself.

Have you ever tried repeatedly beating the idea of the goal into your head with zero or minimal change to what you’re actually doing every day? Was it helpful? A better strategy might be to define the goal, then switch our focus to our behaviors.

In a sense, perhaps we should forget about the goal. You heard me right: walk away from the goal for a while. Not completely, though. We still want to keep it accessible, but we can file it away in the bottom drawer for now. Instead, let’s focus on what we can do every day that will eventually get us to where we want to be.

At this point, you may be wondering, “But I thought goals were important?” They absolutely are. Goals provide feedback on whether our behaviors are working. That’s an important assessment to make from time to time, and it’s useful for determining whether we need to adjust our plan. But when we’re talking about the day-to-day, it might not be as helpful.

Focus on Daily Actions

There is very little in this world over which we have complete control. This holds true for goals as well. The goal is often out of our control, at least to some degree. For example, say your goal is to lose 20 pounds by a certain date. Realistically, you have very little control over what that scale says on that day.

To clarify, this isn’t to say that all is lost and that we shouldn’t even try. Not at all. Our behaviors absolutely affect our outcomes. We can be sure that if we tick all the right boxes (e.g., calorie deficit, protein intake, exercise, etc.), we will absolutely lose weight and improve our body composition. We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this stuff works when executed consistently.

But let’s face it, we can’t predict the future with absolute precision. We can’t control the myriad reasons why scale weight may fluctuate. We can’t control the fact that the body will go through its process, that the process isn’t linear, and that weight loss will happen in fits and starts. It can be frustrating for sure.

What we do have control over, however, is our actions and responses. We can control what types of food eat, how much food we eat, whether or not we exercise, and how we respond emotionally to the process as a whole and the challenges it will present.

Things to Work On Right Now

Focusing on behaviors will get us closer to the changes that we want to see. But along the way, we may want to ask ourselves: is is even the specific number that we want? Often, what we really want is to look better, feel better, have more confidence in ourselves, and feel more connected to others.

Given how deeply rooted this stuff is, it’s understandable that we would attach those desires to a number. Especially when it feels like, “last time I felt good about myself, the number said this.” But I encourage you to instead focus on the process. I believe that the rest will start to fall into place once we do.

We can’t punish ourselves into change by focusing too much on an outcome. All that will do is create resistance to the process. And the process is where the good stuff happens. The good news is that you absolutely can get there. But try to spend your energy on the important stuff, which is what you need to do today, tomorrow, and this week.

So here’s my challenge to you. Imagine what it will look like when you’ve achieved the changes you want to see. What did it take to get there? What did you do? Pick one of those actions and work on that this week. And please don’t hesitate to drop me a line and let me know how you’re doing.

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