Don’t Just Set Yourself Outcome Goals, Set Yourself Process Goals
Goals, goals, goals! Setting yourself outcome goals can be very stressful. Making future plans during a period of uncertainty can at times be unrealistic. Process goals are short-term manageable achievements that will lead to larger long-term goals.
Why big outcome goals are problematic
If a task makes you feel intimidated and too nervous to undertake, it is usually too large a goal. Having an outcome goal such as ‘write your thesis’ or ‘find a job abroad’ can sometimes be out of your control and is better thought of as ‘the big picture’ rather than a goal. Many factors and obstacles such as time, money, family and personal development play large roles on the journey to reach your dream. It is easy to attribute your successes and failures to moments that may not be related to it. Setting goals take months and years, and it can become frustrating and demotivating when you feel you haven’t reached your desired end results after some time. Many become obsessed and consumed with the one set goal, which leads to a negative mindset and impacts on your mental health. You can become blinded by your ‘failure’ and feel that you cannot do anything until you reach that final monumental destination. Large daunting goals also result in procrastination or a full stop in general. Outcome goals end up being very unproductive and unhelpful.
Think of the Ancient Greek myth of Sisyphus, a man condemned by the gods to roll a hefty boulder up a hill, only to have it roll back down when he gets nearer to the top. The myth represents an activity that becomes too arduous and pointless the more you attempt it. This could be likened to a distant dream, an outcome goal, that ends up seeming impossible and unrealistic the more you push through to achieve it.
Goal setting needs to be measurable and realistic. Break up those mental boulders!
Separating set goals can help you organise your thoughts and understand the steps in order to reach the end result. Having a realistic checklist will make you feel encouraged that you are at least moving forwards or making some progress. They will direct your thoughts to the journey and your methods rather than the end result. This way you can keep learning and self-evaluating.
You may find that your dream will have altered along the way, which is absolutely fine. The great thing about process goals is that they are measurable. You are able to understand your personal development and abilities much better, as well as what you actually want. Having the same outcome goal for five years or more doesn’t always make any sense as you are always changing as a person. That doesn’t mean you cannot dream! But instead of focusing on one path, process goals pave your own stepping stones and can adjust them or create new ones when necessary. That one far-away longterm goal transforms into a series of multiple, closer options.
Be wary of big outcome goal successes
It is easy to become distracted when you hear stories of others reaching a big outcome goal. You are so quick to compare the before and after transformation, that you are not aware of what kind of journey and goal setting they have had to undertake. There will always be challenges! The benefit of process goals is that they will keep you motivated for the next hurdle instead of feeling like you have completed everything or a failure if you fall short of one task.
It’s all about the small steps, start by daily goal setting
Work your way from the bottom to the top by making daily or even hourly to-do lists. Put everything from simple to tricky tasks and feel an imaginary pat on the back when you start ticking them off! You can chart your progress on a physical calendar and turn daily process goals to monthly and yearly ones. Bullet journals are a great way for documenting and personalising everyday results compared to a plain checklist. Colouring and drawing images will help inspire you and transforms a list of chores into a fun and sentimental log. They also make a useful revision tool when combined with mind-maps or lists for study. Turning chunks of information into images is a solid technique proven to improve memory. A good tip is to write down what you still want to finish or do the next day before going to sleep. This will stop you tossing and turning over what you haven’t achieved and how much work there is still to do. Working towards your dream is always a daunting prospect. Set goals that are bite-size and short-term victories that will lead to the big picture and keep you motivated for every challenge along the way.