goal vs process

When a new year comes along, we see people setting multiple new year resolutions that may seem arbitrary. Some may decide they want to lose 20 pounds, some want to build a million-dollar business, while others simply want to quit smoking by the end of the year.

Setting goals are perfectly fine, but there’s a better way to achieve what you want than to fixate on the end result. Have you wondered why most people run out of steam and give up on their new year resolutions by the end of the first month?

For most people, setting a specific and actionable goal is the first step to achieving them. That’s what I’ve been doing to achieve what I want until recently, where I shifted my goal-based system to process-oriented system instead.

Why Did I Make the Change?


You see, I was one of those people who decided on a few new year resolutions and completely gave up on them just a few weeks after. I just didn’t have the willpower to keep up.

Last year, I decided I wanted to get into shape and build some muscles. I’ve been lifting for quite a while, but I thought it was time to step it up and set some actionable figures.

Almost arbitrarily, I decided I wanted to build 10 lbs of lean muscles and reduce 5% body fat by the end of the year. I knew it’s actionable and thought I could achieve it by using willpower alone.

I started hitting the gym much more often and stick to a strict diet plan. It was hard but I persevered, up until the end of 2nd week anyway. After that I got burned out and slipped right back to my old habits.

I asked some of my friends and realized that they experience pretty much the same thing. They set a goal, work very hard on it, burn out and retreat right back to their old ways of life.

So what’s a better way to achieve the results you want?

Goal-Based vs Process-Oriented Systems


Soon after I read about the Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, where he talked about the power of changing lives through simple habits. Instead of focusing on the end goal, you focus on a set of processes (habits) instead.

So what’s the difference goal-based vs process-oriented approach?

  • If you are a bodybuilder, your goal is to build muscles. The process is your training schedule and diet plan.
  • If you are an entrepreneur, your goal is to build a million dollar business. The process is your business and marketing plans.
  • If you are a business owner, your goal is to increase profits. The process is your management plan for your business and your team.
  • If you are a runner, your goal is to run a marathon. The process is your training schedule for the month.

In short, a process is a defined set of steps that you can do to help you achieve your goals. Now, here’s an interesting question to consider:

If you completely ignore your goals and focus on just the processes, will you still get results at the end of the day?

For example, if you are a bodybuilder and you ignore the goals you set for muscle building and fat loss, instead you focus on just the training schedule and diet plan. Will you still get the results you desire at the end of the day?

I’m sure you will.

For instance, I wanted to start making money online in 2016, and started this website as part of my effort. Initially I made the goal of earning $10,000 profits by the end of 2016, but I changed my approach after reading the book.

Instead of fixating on the number, I developed a writing and publishing schedule for this website. Over the past 12 months, I’ve written over 200 articles on this site alone. Surprisingly, my readership and profits have also increased beyond my expectation.

By the end of 2016, I’ve made more than $10,000 profits from this website. Just by developing the habits of writing helpful content on a regular basis, I’ve achieved my goal without thinking too much about it.

What I did was simply to develop the habit of writing an article after my day job, from Monday to Thursday. I focused on the process of doing the work, instead of worrying how to achieve the goal. In the end, I enjoyed a better results than I have expected.

Had I fixate on the end goal of making $10,000 profits alone, I would’ve placed a huge (and unnecessary) burden on my own shoulders.

Why You Should Focus on Processes Instead of Goals


There’s nothing wrong in setting actionable goals, but what’s more important is to develop a repeatable process (habits) around the goals you want to achieve. Here’s why you should focus on the processes instead of end goals:

1. Don’t Make Yourself Unhappy with Your Goals


When you set a goal for yourself, you are essentially saying, “I’m not good enough until I have achieved this goal”.

The problem with this mindset is that you are constantly reminding yourself to delay the happiness and celebration until you have achieved your goals. You can never call it a success until you have finally reached the set milestone.

Solution: Commit to a process instead of a goal.

Fixating on a goal takes away the happiness of working towards it. Imagine if I had set the goal of making $10,000 from online business by the end of 2016, I would’ve spent much more time worrying about the numbers than to create content and make actual progress.

We put unnecessary burdens on ourselves all the time. It’s about time you put less emphasis on the end results and focus more on the process instead. Don’t stress over the numbers and end goals and live in the moment.

Give yourself a pat on the back when you follow through your plans. Celebrate when you see small improvements in your daily practice.

2. You are Much More Likely to Follow Through a Defined Process


If you have a defined set of plans or process, you can develop it into a habit over time. All great feats are achieved via a set of accumulated processes and improvements.

Consider someone trying to quit smoking. Most quitters can’t achieve what they want because they focus on quitting as soon as possible, instead of making small progresses over time.

If you smoke a pack of cigarettes a day for the past 10 years, it will be extremely difficult to stop smoking immediately. It’s the same as asking someone who doesn’t exercise regularly to start running 10km from the get-go. It’s impossible.

Solution: Stop focusing on achieving immediate results.

Instead of focusing on the end goal of quitting, develop a set of process and make it a habit. Instead of smoking a pack a day, smoke one cigarette less for every week that goes by.

Ignore the end goal of quit smoking. Instead, your entire focus is to follow through your plans. Write it down and pin it where you can see every day. Give yourself a pat on the back when you successfully stick to your plans.

Over the course of few months, you would’ve stopped smoking completely. Shifting the focus from achieving goals to following through a process is why some people achieve results while others don’t.

Most people make it a point to quit smoking and try to persevere with sheer willpower. Before they know it, they have given up on their resolution and rebounded to their old habits.

Give Yourself a Positive Feedback Loop


It’s best to write down your processes and visualize them in the form of a schedule or a training plan. Check it off like you would a to-do list when you have successfully followed through your plan. This gives you a sense of accomplishment every time you stick to your plans.

For example, I make it a habit to hit the gym 3 times a week and record my progress using a smartphone app. I know exactly when I have skipped a session and remind myself to get back to schedule.

I no longer have a definite goal to achieve, instead my entire focus is to stick to the plans and follow through. The results? I have built more muscles in this year than all the previous years combined.

The Bottom Line


If there’s one thing you can change the way you approach your life, learn to build good processes and habits that can carry you to your goals.

Once you have these processes in place, don’t stress yourselves over the end results and enjoy the process instead.

You’ll gain more than results than you’ve initially set out to achieve.

Related Article:

Achieve Any Goals in Life Using the Compound Effect