Goal Setting: Process Goals versus Outcome Goals


by Peter Dell’Orto


When you set a goal, do you set process goals or outcome goals?

A process goal is one where you set out what you will do.
An outcome goal is one where you set out what will happen.

Here are some good process goals:
“For the next four weeks, I will eat two palm sized portions of lean protein with every meal 90% of the time.”
“I will train twice a week at the gym.”
“I will eat a green vegetable at three meals each day.

Here are some good outcome goals:
“I will drop my waist size from a 42 to 36.”
“I will lose 10 pounds.”
“I will perform 20 pushups without a break.”

You’ll notice these goals are all quantifiable. They aren’t generic, such as:
“I will train more.”, “I will get healthy” or “I will eat better.”

There is a reason for that – they are specific so you’ll know when you get there (at least for an outcome goal). Or, for a process goal, you’ll know if you’re getting it done or not.

Setting a goal like “Eat better” sounds good, but it’s generic and not quantifiable.
That may lead you to eating a green vegetable to a meal every once in a while which is a better habit. Although, if you set a specific and quantifiable goal such as, “add a green vegetable to three meals a day” and you had a green vegetable every once in a while, you would not have reached that goal.

I prefer that people set process goals and outcome goals. The problem with only setting outcome goals is that you don’t control outcomes, you control the process you use. So your process goals will lead to your outcome goals.

Here is what I suggest:
1) Pick only up to 3 concrete outcomes.
2) Pick a deadline (I like monthly, six month, or yearly goals).
3) Then pick your first process goal and set a shorter deadline (I like 4, 8, and 12 week processes).
4) Do that one until it’s a habit, and then pick another process goal that leads towards your outcome goal.

Good luck and good training!