Are your goals activity orientated or outcome orientated?

This is a huge difference between the two. I often talk to people about what they want to accomplish in life. Most of the time, I find at least two problems with their responses. It’s rarely that what they want to achieve isn’t worthy of their attention.

The problems are usually they don’t actually know what success would look like. When I ask them what succeeding at that goal would look like they have no idea. The bigger problem is often that their goal is completely outcome orientated.

They know what success will look like, but they define it by ceding control to something other than themselves.

Look at your goals that you have. Are they about actions or outcomes? If they are about outcomes, do you control those outcomes? In other words, an outcome goal that most people do control to some extent is how much money they can save.

A good goal might in this vein might look like the following:

By December 31, 2012 I want to have $1000 in savings.

In my experience, this is an OK goal for people who want to make change happen in their life. It is an outcome that they can control.

Assuming that they make enough money for this to be possible, it is a goal that is definable, measurable and controllable.

A better goal might be worded like this:

From now until December 31, 2012 I want to save 15% of every dollar that comes into my bank account

This goal is better because it makes the goal an activity as opposed to an outcome.

A bad goal often involves outcomes that we don’t have control over. It might look like this:

I want to lose 25 pounds by the end of the year.

A better goal would be:

I want to work out three times a week for twenty minutes and not eat snacks between meals except on Sundays and Wednesdays where I will allow myself a snack.

This goal is better because it focuses on activity and it is action orientated.

Outcome based goals can be detrimental to true change because they don’t create new routines so once the outcome is achieved the old routines come back. A second problem with outcome goals is the fact that sometimes, we can’t control the outcomes. Think about the two following goals:

  1. I want to be published by a major publishing house
  2. I want to write a manuscript on ______________.

The first goal is dependent upon a lot of variable that are outside of the goal setters control.

The second goal is completely under their control. How about you? Do you have some goals for 2012? Are they measurable? Are they about your actions or about someone else’s? Talk back in the comment section.

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