Outcome vs. habit goals
I’m certainly not new to setting goals. I’ve been consciously setting them in some shape or form since I was about 19 years old and they have proven to be vital to getting where I am now. But even for someone with almost a decade of experience, there’s always a lot more to learn.
Last time I realised I probably wasn’t doing something right was when I read Cal Newport’s book Deep Work (this book talks about theory and implementation of deep work into one’s work regime as a way of creating new value that’s hard to replicate).
In one of the chapters, Newport says that in order to achieve a goal, a future outcome, we should shift our focus to small daily steps, or habits, that will get us there. As you can see, this suggests there are two types of goals – outcome and habit goals. Let’s take a closer look at them.
An outcome goal describes what you are trying to improve, a final outcome of your effort. This could, for example, be losing 10kgs, earning XY amount of money etc. While it’s really important to have a final destination, there’s one major problem with only having this type of goal – the improvements come too late to change your behaviour along the way. This is where habit goals come into place.
Habit, or process, goals are measurable repetitive behaviours or actions that will lead to your achievement of the outcome. In other words, they are about doing the right thing, regardless of the outcome, knowing that the right activities will lead you to ultimate victory.
Instead of being able to reach and evaluate your outcome goal let’s say once a year, focusing on small habits give you the option to improve the behaviours you directly control in the near future that will then have a positive impact on your long-term goal. That’s a great boost to your morale. Moreover, since they are quite small, they are much easier to grasp than something that’s looming far ahead in the future.
Here are a couple of examples of both goals to help you better understand this concept:
Outcome goal – lose 10kg of fat in 2018
Habit goal – exercise 4x a week and eat healthy every day
Outcome goal – publish 4 academic papers in a year
Habit goal – number of deep hours worked on the papers per week
Outcome goal – earn a revenue of $2,000,000 for your business this year
Habit goal – reach out to 20 prospective customers each day
Are you getting the point? This article is by no means exhaustive on the topic. Goal setting is a huge area and takes long time to master – you are designing your own life after all. If you want to know more about how to set goals and learn some of the best practices, you can’t go wrong by taking a look at the resources below (I don’t have any affiliation with these products, I just found them very informative and helpful):
The Time of Your Life by Tony Robbins
Psychology of Achievement by Brian Tracy (he has a lot more books on this topic that are worth exploring)