How to Set the Right Goals

Discover the secrets to setting the right goals and then actually accomplishing them.

Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #162

Process Goals Set the How

If you can’t find a process goal you enjoy, consider changing your outcome goal.

Process goals measure the effort you should be putting in to reach your outcome. Monitor your process goals ruthlessly! First, make sure you can meet them. After only a few weeks, I'll know if I can get to the gym three times a week or just once. If it seems I'm not meeting my process goals, it's a sign I should find different ways to shrink my waistline.

Second, even if you're accomplishing your process goals, make sure they lead where you want to go. Just doing cardio may not get me to my goal. I might need another process goal like, "Eat no more than two Oreo ice cream cakes each month." Ouch! Or maybe my chosen "how" just doesn't lead where I want to go at all. I want to look like Tom Cruise, but diet and exercise just won't do it. My genes have predetermined that I'll go through life looking like a garden gnome. Yippee. Maybe I need a whole new process goal. Like finding a way to transplant my brain into Tom Cruise's body. Bwah hah hah hah hah!

Why Process Goals Are More Important Than Outcome Goals

Outcome goals are the "what." Process goals are the "how." It's tempting to list your outcome goals, then jump right in. Stop! Your process goals are actually the more important of the two. They determine how you spend your time. How you spend your time determines how happy you are. So process goals—not outcomes—create your quality of life.

I met a Fortune 500 CEO who grew up with the goal "I want to be a Fortune 500 CEO." His process goals went something like this: "Find a high-paying job. Work 12-hour days 7 days a week to show my loyalty." He found a high-paying job at a company he hated, with people he didn't like, doing work he despised. He did it 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 30 years. He got his outcome and hated his life every step of the way.

How to Choose the Best Process Goals

Choose process goals that lead to your big outcomes, and make sure they're things you enjoy, so you love your life while you're working towards your outcome. If you're a salesperson whose goal is to buckle down and sell twice as much this year, there are many ways to do it. You could cold call more, present at conferences, or sell more to existing clients. If you love public speaking, your process goals might to present at a certain number of trade shows. If you can't imagine being onstage, but you love one-on-one relationships, your process goals might be to have dinner with two past clients each week. If you can't find a process goal you enjoy to get you to your outcome goal, consider changing your outcome goal. After all, if you're enjoying how you spend your time, then even if you don't reach the outcome, at least you had fun going for it!

When you're setting your resolutions this year, choose outcome goals you want to achieve. Then choose specific process goals that, if you meet them, will lead to your outcomes. Make sure your process goals are fun, and make sure they are leading you to your outcomes. If they aren't choose new process goals or change the big outcomes.

Next week, we'll discuss specific techniques for making sure you actually do what your process goals say you should.

Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!

Goal image courtesy of Shutterstock


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.