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Stop focusing on the outcome and focus on the process

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Stop focusing on the outcome and focus on the process

Scott Miker

In order to accomplish a goal we have to take action.  We have to understand the work involved and make a consistent effort towards that goal.

Yet time and time again we miss that crucial part.  We get caught up in the results we hope to achieve. 

We assume that fantasizing about the car we will buy from the money we will make from our business idea.  We think about how we will feel once we reach a specific level in our career.  We dream about the accolades we will receive once we get our chance to perform.

Looking to the future and planning is important.  Just as a business with no strategic direction is bound to keep spinning its wheels, if we don’t think about and plan for the future we won’t improve. 

And there are plenty of people out there that advocate for this.  They promise great riches following their simple and easy system.  Or they talk about the feeling you will get once you graduate from their college.  They may even tell you to create a vision board full of the fun items you would buy once you are a success. 

But to me this misses the point.  Improvement isn’t just about the final place you hope to get to or the prizes you get from succeeding.  It isn’t about what others will think of you or the award you will get.

To improve and reach a goal we have to be aware of the destination we are moving towards but we have to focus on the process of getting there.  We have to focus on the action and behavior changes that will need to be in place.  We have to focus on the hard work and continuing to work even when you don’t feel like it.

One way to do this is to set goals based on the process instead of the outcome.  Instead of setting a goal to lose 30 lbs., set a goal to exercise for at least 15 minutes every day.  Instead of dreaming about the Lamborghini you hope to purchase when your business takes off, set goals and put your focus on the daily processes and routines in order to maximize efficiency. 

In The Ultimate Competitive Advantage by Shawn D. Moon and Sue Dathe-Douglass, the authors talk about lead and lag.  These concepts are very helpful and align perfectly with the focus on the process not just on the outcome.

“In tracking progress on a goal, there are two kinds of measures: lead and lag.  The lead measures track actions you set and take to achieve the goal.  For example, consuming fewer calories each day and exercising regularly will lead to weight loss (as long as the laws of physics remain in place), so the lead measures are the number of calories consumed and the number of calories burned in exercise each day.  The lag measures quantify the results.  For example, if your goal is to lose weight, the lag measure is what the scale tells you about your progress.  Tracking the lead measures is harder than tracking the lag measures, but you do it if you’re serious about your goal: If you do not hit the lead measures, you will most likely not hit the lag measures.”

This is great way to look at goal setting.  The lead measures the process goals that you set and the lag measures the outcome goals.  Focusing on the lead goals and achieving them will likely result in reaching the lag goals.  But focus on the lag goals doesn’t mean you will consistently do the steps to get there, which makes it less likely that you will reach that goal. 

When you are striving to improve and reach goals, whether in your personal life, in a business setting, or in a team environment, make sure you take into account the process.  Look at what you will specifically do to reach a goal.  Without that crucial part you will likely find yourself short of the goal and wondering why it didn’t happen.