Process-Centered Goal Setting:
The Road Map for Success
Read Time : 5 minutes
Within the current hustle culture, where more is better and having it all is within your grasp, assuming you work hard enough of course, outcome-based goal setting has become one of the most prominent techniques advocated by self-help gurus and life coaches to improve personal and professional performance, achievement and attainment.
The lure of this relatively straightforward practice is comprehensible as we endeavour to create a better lifestyle but the results, confirmed by clinical research, leave a lot to be desired. With over 80% of participants failing victim to the pitfalls of Outcome-Based Goal Setting, there must be a better approach; that approach is Process-Centered Goal Setting.
This article will focus solely on current best practice for setting Process-Centred Goals with a subsequent article looking at the benefits of Process-Centered Goal Setting.
The Limitations of Life
‘Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life’
Process-Centred Goal Setting is based on the fundamental understanding that each process we commit to comes at the cost of our time, energy, and money.
These three resources are finite and as with any asset, we must decide how to distribute them between our health, relationships, career, finances, and spirituality to create the lifestyle that we desire.
Inherent in this system, is the trade-off; a situational decision that involves diminishing or losing one quality or quantity in return for gains in other aspects.
Each individual must choose their own tariff:
- a broad and balanced life that gives a fair amount of time and energy to each area.
- a much more focused approach, giving most of the time and energy to just one area.
There is no right or wrong answer, but if your calling is to become a field leading scientist, with 80 – 100 hour workweeks, you may well excel in that endeavour but the other areas of your life are likely to suffer.
The cost of a broad and balanced life, although there are some exceptions to this rule, is the almost certain absence of ‘greatness’.
With an understanding of this framework, we choose our poison. We actively decide which dues we are willing to pay and which we are not. The resultant clarity of purpose leads to improved adherence to the self-selected processes as we follow our path as opposed to leaving our decisions to the whims of destiny or worse yet the capricious agendas of others.
In a world of infinities possibilities, explicitly deciding which processes we want to adhere to certainly does narrow our focus but does not limit us. We have consciously defined our reality, our vision and our purpose and, as a result, happily forfeit the trivialities that exist outside of that vision for excellence in our own domain(s).
Who do I Want to Be?
‘Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become’
Almost everyone wants to have six-pack abs or a beach ready body but not many people want to train 6 days per week and meticulously track their nutrition.
By refusing to chase outcomes we enter the domain of processes. We move from the type of person who wants [insert outcome] to the type of person who is a [insert title].
By making this leap we decide upon the daily activities and tasks that we both enjoy and value and, as a result, the goal transforms and adherence skyrockets.
- The goal is not to win the triathlon races, the goal is to become a triathlete.
- The goal is not to become a sell-out arena rock star, the goal is to become the type of person who practices their instrument every day.
- The goal is not to finish one design, the goal is to become an illustrator.
By moving away from the realm of outcomes into the domain of processes, we move from a win/ lose situation and create a win/ win situation where success isn't dependent upon external results or factors.
If we become the type of person who trains daily, we will undoubtedly become a better triathlete and improve our chances of winning races but, with our focus solely on the process, our happiness and self-worth is maintained irrespective of the race result.
What Habits are Required?
When we decide upon the type of person we want to become we must decide what habits that type of person would have and how we can integrate these processes into our lifestyle.:
- The writer would write every day and read extensively around her area of expertise.
- The musician would practice every day, study music conventions regularly and analyse the work of the best performers.
- The triathlete would follow a structured training plan and fuel his body appropriately.
The biggest mistake we make in our pursuit of an improved lifestyle is that we make decisions on the habits we should implement when we are feeling energized, invigorated and motivated; we try to do too much too soon!
As the pressures of life mount - work, stress, and a lack of sleep - these new intensive habits soon seem like chores.
The initial phase of habit acquisition should involve baby steps with the main concern being showing up. Before we can optimize and improve a practice, we must first show up.
- Start with 3 x 10 minute workouts a week as opposed to an advanced training plan.
- Begin writing 50 words per day, not 1000.
- Start with one evening of coding per week as opposed to three.
Every time you show up is an extra repetition and reiteration of the person you are becoming. With enough repetitions you will become an athlete, a writer, or a coder.
At this point, these baby habits become gateway habits into more intense, frequent, and consistent versions of the habits allowing for further improvement in the chosen domain.
Create Feedback Loops
‘When feedback is immediate, clear, and concrete, people learn quickly
When feedback is delayed, abstract, and opaque, people rarely learn’
Feedback is the key to sustainable, consistent improvement on our self-improvement journey.
Friends, teachers and mentors can evaluate our progress and shine a light on the correct path to follow on our quest to becoming the person we want to be.
- A triathlon coach will help his client avoid common pitfalls, improve efficiency, and provide accountability during the process.
- A writing coach will enable us write engaging novels that entertain and grow our audience.
- A coding mentor will ensure our code makes sense, is written according to industry best practices and that the languages we are learning are in demand.
Teachers and mentors can show us the path but we personally must take the action required. The Habit Tracker is a widely used strategy to provide feedback as regards our adherence to the new habits.
The habit tracker provides daily, clear, and concrete feedback on your trajectory as defined by you. Consistently tick off your non-negotiables and you will slowly yet steadily climb your mountain.
Process-Centred Goal Setting is simple, sequential and solution focused. Decide the lifestyle you want to lead and the person you want to become and cast daily, small votes through desired actions for the person you want to become. Start small, create effective feedback loops and stick to the process.
Progress will seem slow, and the person you were yesterday will not seem much different to who you are today, but these daily marginal gains will compound over time, and you will look back in a year’s time and realise the change has been transformational.